Food at work: a qualitative study to investigate the drivers and barriers to healthy eating in two public sector workplaces in Barnsley

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Abstract:

Background: 

Workplaces are increasingly being seen as important settings for health promotion in national strategies (Black, 2008). They have the potential to reach a large proportion of the adult population and are a key setting to improve not only the health of employees, but also that of the local population (Chu et al., 2000). The aim of the study was to provide a deeper understanding of the perceptions and views of staff on the drivers and barriers to the provision, promotion and consumption of healthier food and drink. The study took place in two public sector workplaces in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Method: 

A qualitative study in which 23 staff employed by either Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council or Barnsley Primary Care Trust were interviewed. Purposive sampling was used to ensure representation of different grades, job roles, hours worked, gender and age groups. All interviews took place in the workplace and were completed by the principal researcher using a semi-structured interview schedule. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using Framework analysis. Results: 

Four major themes (workplace structures and systems; cost, choice and availability of food; personal versus institutional responsibility; and food messages and marketing) were identified as drivers and barriers to healthy eating in the workplace. Foods promoted in workplaces were perceived as traditional ‘stodgy’ foods and affordable healthy choices had limited availability. Catering staff were ultimately driven to run their service as a business. Time constraints and tight deadlines imposed upon staff led to people not eating lunch. Discussion: 

Similar to other studies, this study found that values relating to taste, cost and perceived value, convenience, quality and health affected food choice (Drewnowski & Darmon, 2005). Lunch was often missed due to work pressures, and the organisational culture of not taking lunch (Devine et al., 2007). The viewpoints and accounts of a range of different staff on food provision in two workplaces were considered and the study has generated ideas for improvement of food provision and ways to promote healthy eating in these two public sector workplaces that can extend to the home and employees families. Conclusions: 

A qualitative methodological approach has facilitated the exploration of a range of staff views and experiences, suggesting complexity around healthy eating and food provision in the workplace. A quantitative study is needed to confirm and quantify the results. References 

Chu, C., Breucker, G., Harris, N., Stitzel, A., Gan, X., Gu, X. & Dwyer, S. (2000) Health promoting workplaces – international development. Health Promot. Int.15, 155–167.

Black, C. (2008) Working for a Healthier tomorrow: Review of the Health of Britain's Working Age population. London: TSO, Presented to the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State.

Devine, C., Nelson, J.A., Chin, N., Dozier, A. & Fernandez, I.D. (2007) ‘Pizza is cheaper than salad’: assessing workers’ views for an environmental food intervention. Obesity15 (Suppl.), 57S–68S.

Drewnowski, A. & Darmon, N. (2005) Food choices and diet costs: an economic analysis. J. Nutr.135, 900–904.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2009.00952_22.x

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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