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Associations between school food environments, body mass index and dietary intakes among regional school students in Victoria, Australia: a cross-sectional study

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(1) Background: Childhood overweight and obesity is a significant and preventable problem worldwide. School environments have been suggested to be plausible targets for interventions seeking to improve the quality of children’s dietary intake. The objective of this study was to determine the extent to which the current characteristics of the school food environment were associated with primary school students’ dietary intake and Body Mass Index (BMI) z scores in a representative sample in regional Victoria. (2) Methods: This study included 53 schools, comprising a sample of 3,496 students in year levels two (aged 7–8 years), four (9–10 years) and six (11–12 years). Year four and six students completed dietary questionnaires. Principals from each school completed a survey on school food environment characteristics. Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between students’ dietary intake and school food environment scores, controlling for confounders such as socio-economic status, school size and sex. Food environment scores were also analysed against the odds of being healthy weight (defined as normal BMI z score). (3) Results: Mixed associations were found for the relationship between students’ dietary intake and food environment scores. Meeting the guidelines for vegetable intake was not associated with food environment scores, but students were more likely (OR: 1.68 95% CI 1.26, 2.24) to meet the guidelines if they attended a large school (>300 enrolments) and were female (OR: 1.28 95% CI: 1.02, 1.59). Healthy weight was not associated with school food environment scores, but being a healthy weight was significantly associated with less disadvantage (OR: 1.24 95% CI 1.05, 1.45). Conclusion: In this study, the measured characteristics of school food environments did not have strong associations with dietary intakes or BMI among students.



International journal of environmental research and public health





Article number



1 - 13




Basel, Switzerland







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, by the authors