Young people and the food environment 

We know that urban environments impact on our health, wellbeing and quality of life in many different ways. There is good evidence that this is true for children and young people. This page outlines some of our previous and current work in this area.

 

Healthy school food policy

Healthy school food policy can help to promote a healthy diet among Scottish children and young people. The Scottish Government has recognised the importance of schools as a setting for provision and promotion of healthy food and drinks through legislation such as the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 and policies such as the Preventing Obesity Route Map accompanied by monitoring of selected  indicators of progress.  Glasgow City Council (GCC) has well established school food policies and programmes which provide and promote healthy food and drinks within schools.

We have worked with GCC and partners over several years exploring the impacts on pupils’ health and wellbeing of eating in or out of school through a portfolio of research and evaluation.

 

Changing the food environment in Glasgow

The Centre held an event in October 2013 involving pupils and teachers from five secondary schools in Glasgow at which the “Glasgow Game” was used to explore how the food environment in Glasgow can be changed for the better.

The “Glasgow Game” is based on the World Game, developed by the International Futures Forum, and is an interactive way for a group to engage in a conversation about the important issues facing Glasgow and to create recommendations regarding future actions to address challenges. 

Using data describing the city and its people from the Understanding Glasgow website, pupils explored current trends in the city, identified possible shocks to the system (e.g. a recession, welfare reform, a fuel crisis) and what the key concerns arising from these shocks would be. At the end of the event, pupils presented 12 declarations setting out actions they considered essential to improve the food environment in Glasgow.

Download the event report and watch a short film about the event.


Food outlets near Glasgow secondary schools: a pilot study

In late 2011, we collaborated with local authority and academic colleagues to conduct a research study to explore the nutritional quality of samples of ‘off-site’ foods (from outlets around selected Glasgow schools) popular with pupils with statutory Scottish nutrient standards for school lunches. Approximately half of the samples exceeded recommended energy levels; over a half exceeded recommended fat and saturated fat levels; and over a third exceeded recommended salt levels. 

Our conclusions were that fast food bought outside school is of very poor nutritional value and high in fat and salt. We also found that fast food outlets commonly use targeted marketing strategies to encourage pupils to buy unhealthy food and drinks. You can read our recommendations for action in this important public health arena, in this briefing paper.  

Our full report provides more detail regarding our methods and research tools. We held a research seminar in June 2012 where we discussed our findings and potential for action with pupils, school staff, parents and a range of professionals and decision-makers. The presentations from our seminar are available here and here and a full event report is also available

 

The ‘Big Eat In’ evaluation

In 2009/10, GCC tested out a pilot ‘stay-on-site’ initiative, the ‘Big Eat In’, which was conducted in eight Glasgow secondary schools and encouraged S1 pupils to stay within school premises at lunchtime to eat a healthy lunch and engage in lunchtime activities. This pilot was very successful and over half of Glasgow’s 30 secondary schools subsequently introduced S1 stay on site policies. GCPH explored the ongoing sustainability and impact of these policies through commissioning the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen) to investigate their practical implementation and views of pupils and staff regarding future policies.

Findings concluded that school lunchtime stay-on-site policies offer multiple benefits for secondary pupils including increased safety, healthy eating, support with the transition from primary to secondary school, and the establishment of good relationships between school staff and young people and between pupils themselves.

Download the briefing paper of the evaluation results

Download 'Evaluating the Impact of the Big Eat In’ - final report

Following the ‘Big Eat In’ evaluation, ScotCen conducted further qualitative research to explore the sustainability of lunchtime stay on site policies.

Download the briefing paper here.


Earlier research

Initial GCPH research on this issue was conducted in 2006 and 2007 to explore the impacts of policies and programmes within and beyond school.  Findings from each phase of research were summarised in two briefing papers: 

Healthy Food Provision and Promotion in Primary School: What impact is it having on food choices? 

Healthy food provision and promotion in primary and secondary school: Impacts in school and beyond