UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring BC teachers' experiences with school food Hassen, Raihan


The 2019 Professional Standards for BC Educators state that “educators care for students and act in their best interests”. While addressing students’ food and nutrition needs is not listed as an explicit role for teachers, evidence suggests that teachers are left to fill a variety of unmet food needs for students. Still, very little Canadian research has examined teachers’ experiences, how they understand and enact their perceived responsibilities for caring for students’ food and nutrition needs, or how they interpret the notion of “healthy eating”. This study therefore interviewed fourteen (n=14) grade 5-7 teachers in BC to explore their experiences with school food with a focus on teachers’ perceived roles and tensions related to ensuring that students are well-fed and educated about healthy eating. Teachers expressed conflicting beliefs about their food-related roles and responsibilities. Although, teachers largely believed that they should not be responsible for ensuring that students are well-fed, they felt accountable for ensuring that hungry students had access to food during the school day, and frequently purchased food at the expense of their own time, money, and mental energy. Teachers described purchasing, storing and providing students with food and engaging in formal or informal conversations about food as an expression of care for students. Teachers perceived meeting students’ food needs to be an unwritten expectation of their jobs. While teachers often felt accountable for what students ate at school, many felt overwhelmed and under-resourced for successfully meeting children’s food and nutrition needs. Meanwhile, they reported that nutrition guidelines and recommendations, the emotional, social, and mental components of eating, balance and moderation, being fed, and eliminating food shame were all important components of healthy eating, but felt an internal conflict about how best to model healthy behaviours to their students. Insights from this research can inform emerging school-based food and nutrition programs and policy given ongoing momentum towards expanding national school meal programs.

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