Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Jenny Browne

Second Advisor

Ken Burns


Eating habits are learned during childhood, and patterns of behaviour established in childhood have important health ramifications throughout life. Over half of all deaths in Australia are linked to diet with over-consumption of saturated fat, sugar and salt, and lack of fibre being identified as particular problem areas. Nutrition education is an important component of primary health education curricula, and yet school canteens, and integral part of the school environment, do not necessarily offer healthy food choices that support nutrition instruction in the classroom. This study investigated the effect of canteen menu on student knowledge and attitudes toward nutrition and dietary behaviour at school. A two-part questionnaire and dietary analysis were administered to Year Five students in six metropolitan government primary schools. Schools were selected to form one of three groups; those with canteens that sold predominantly healthy food, those that did not, and those that changed to selling predominantly healthy food during the study period. A pretest was administered at the beginning of the study and were followed with a post-test after a five month period. Differences between groups were apparent in dietary behaviour and attitudes towards nutrition. Students with access to canteens with a healthy menu consumed less fat, less salt and more fibre while at school compared with students in schools where the menu was nutritionally inferior. The analysis of the attitudinal section of the questionnaire revealed several differences in student opinion about nutrition. In general, those students with access to healthy canteen menus displayed more positive attitudes towards good nutrition. Use patterns of the canteens and knowledge about nutrition were similar for each group. The study revealed that the nature of canteen food is an important influence on dietary behaviour at school. In addition, it appears that the canteen menu may affect students' attitudes toward good nutrition. This influence may have important ramifications for the present and future health of young Australians and warrants careful consideration by decision-making authorities.

Included in

Nutrition Commons