Strategies to address the complex challenge of improving regional and remote children’s fruit and vegetable consumption
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Fruit and vegetables (F&V) are imperative for good health, yet less than one per cent of Australian children consume these food groups in sufficient quantities. As guided by Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), this paper aimed to: (i) understand key informant perspectives of the amount, types and quality of F&V consumed by rural and remote Western Australian (WA) children; and, (ii) determine strategies that could increase F&V consumption among rural and remote WA children. This qualitative study included 20 semi-structured interviews with health, school/youth and food supply workers, focusing on topics including: quantity and type of F&V consumed and strategies to increase children’s consumption. A thematic analysis was conducted using NVivo qualitative data analysis software (Version 10, 2014. QSR International Pty Ltd., Doncaster, Victoria, Australia). Key informants reported children consumed energy-dense nutrient-poor foods in place of F&V. Strategy themes included: using relevant motivators for children to increase their preference for F&V (i.e., gaming approach, SCT construct of ‘expectations’); empowering community-driven initiatives (i.e., kitchen gardens, SCT construct of ‘environment’); increasing food literacy across settings (i.e., food literacy skills, SCT construct of ‘behavioural capacity’); developing salient messages and cooking tips that resonate with parents (i.e., parent newsletters, SCT construct of ‘self-control’); increasing F&V availability, safety, and convenience (i.e., school provision); and, considering the impact of role models that extend beyond the family (i.e., relatable role models, SCT construct of ‘observational learning’). Overall, a comprehensive strategy that incorporates relevant motivators for children and families, supports local initiatives, reinforces the range of role models that are involved with children and creates healthier environments, is required to increase F&V consumption among children.
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