Schoolteachers can affect students' eating habits in several ways: through nutrition knowledge, positive role modeling, and avoidance of unhealthy classroom food practices. In this study, the knowledge, attitudes, and eating behaviors of prospective teachers as determinants of intended classroom food practices and the school environment and its potential impact on classroom food practices were examined and explored.
One hundred and three students (response rate 79%) enrolled in the final year of a bachelor of education program with at least 22 weeks of practice teaching completed a self-administered questionnaire adapted from the Teens Eating for Energy and Nutrition at School teaching staff survey. Indexes related to classroom food practices, school food environment, personal health, fat intake, and nutrition knowledge were constructed and explored quantitatively using linear modeling techniques and contingency table analysis.
The majority of respondents reported a high fat intake (65%) and had mid-to-low nutrition knowledge (72%). While most respondents (93%) believed that a healthy school food environment was important, two thirds reported unhealthy classroom food practices. Unhealthy classroom food practices were more likely to be used by those intending to teach at the secondary level, those who held a high personal health belief, and those who demonstrated less support for a healthy school environment.
These findings suggest that knowledge, attitudes, and food behaviors of prospective teachers may be barriers to promoting healthy food habits to their future students. Further, prospective teachers would benefit from policies and programs that support healthy classroom practices and from compulsory nutrition education in the teacher training curriculum.