canteens represent an ideal setting to implement public health nutrition initiatives
for children, given their wide reach, frequent use and symbolic value. Online
canteens, where parents order and pay for their child’s lunch online, are
becoming increasingly popular. They provide an excellent opportunity to deliver
consumer behaviour interventions with high fidelity, to large numbers, at a relatively
low cost. Research with school principals has provided preliminary evidence of
feasibility, but no research has been conducted with parents - the end-users. As
such, this study aimed to determine parent awareness levels and likely use of
online canteens, and the likely influence of consumer behaviour strategies
delivered via these systems.
METHODS: A telephone survey was conducted with parents of primary-school aged children in the Hunter New England Region of NSW from February to March 2015. A random sample were selected to receive questions regarding online canteens.
FINDINGS: The overall response rate was 73% (228/312) and 80 parents received the online canteens questions.47% had heard of online canteens, 21% had an online canteen operational in their child’s school and 50% were likely to use an online canteen. Among parents likely to use an online canteen, 68% suggested that the suite of proposed consumer behaviour strategies would influence their canteen purchases for their child, with the most commonly identified strategies including: making healthy items more prominent (87%); colour-coding menu items based on nutritional value (72%); and labelling items with sugar, fat, or salt content (70%). Only 13% of potential users expressed a preference for paper bag ordering, and 94% would participate in an online canteen trial to determine the effect on the quality of foods purchased for children.
CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that nutrition interventions delivered via online canteens may have the potential to influence lunch order purchases for primary school-aged children.