Exploring sense of community among early childhood education and care professionals through the Supporting Nutrition for Australian Childcare (SNAC) website
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Systems and Intervention Research Centre for Health
OPTIMAL NUTRITION IN THE early years of life is essential for long-term health. The Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector offers a significant health promotion setting, but evidence indicates that the potential to promote healthy eating environments is not fully utilised. Supporting Nutrition for Australian Childcare (SNAC) is a web-based nutrition education resource developed to support ECEC professionals in providing healthy eating environments. SNAC provided additional support through forums intended to foster an online community of practice in this space. This particular aspect of the study sought to understand if ECEC staff demonstrated a sense of community by means of engaging with the website, and if they valued this as an additional means of support. After 12 months, the SNAC community had 1045 members. The sense of community was measured quantitatively with SCI-2 (n = 183), and qualitatively by netnographic analysis of conversation threads (n = 1179) and interviews (n = 42). Shared emotional connection was the only statistically significant SCI-2 construct; and although social ties between individual members were not apparent, there was a stronger connection between some members and the first researcher. SNAC continues to develop as an important online community of practice in the ECEC sector and is valued by those striving to provide healthy eating environments. It is a valuable platform on which to base future interventions.