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Perceived Barriers and Facilitators to Healthy Eating and School Lunch Meals among Adolescents: A Qualitative Study

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Objectives: We explored how perceived barriers and facilitators influence healthy eating and investigated the acceptability of changes to school lunch meals among adolescents after implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Methods: We conducted 8 focus groups with adolescents (N = 64) at 3 South Los Angeles high schools. Data collection instruments included a semi-structured guide and questionnaire. Two researchers independently coded transcripts. Results: Most participants believed fruits and vegetables were available in their community and reported high relative cost, poor quality, and lack of motivation as barriers to consumption. Many said school meals were an important source of healthy food and were aware of recent changes to the school lunch program. A primary facilitator to eating school lunches was access to fresh food items (eg, a salad bar). Perceived barriers included long cafeteria lines, time constraints, lack of variety, and limited quantities of preferred items. Adolescents viewed off-campus food establishments near the school as competition to school meals. Conclusions: Our findings suggest the need to measure perceived and actual barriers to healthy eating among adolescents and to examine the effect of these barriers on dietary behavior. We provide programmatic and policy recommendations.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Public Health, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA;, Email: [email protected] 2: Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 3: Community Health Councils, Inc., Los Angeles, CA 4: Partners in Care Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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