School Food Environment in Urban Zambia: A Qualitative Analysis of Drivers of Adolescent Food Choices and Their Policy Implications

Mulenga Mary Mukanu, Anne Marie Thow, Peter Delobelle, Zandile June-Rose Mchiza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Identifying context specific points for reforming policy to promote healthier food environments and consumer behavior in critical life stages like adolescence is crucial in addressing the double burden of malnutrition. Using a qualitative study design, we conducted 20 focus group discussions with grade 10 pupils from ten secondary schools in Lusaka. Turner's framework which conceptualizes the food environment into two domains-the external domain (availability, pricing, vendor and product properties, and marketing and regulation of food) and the internal domain (accessibility, affordability, convenience, and desirability of food)-was used to guide thematic data analysis and results interpretation. Adolescents stated their food choices are largely based on personal preference linked to the need for social acceptability among peers. Adolescents felt their food choice is limited to 'cheap junk foods' which are affordable and readily available at school. Healthy foods like fruits were said to be inaccessible and unaffordable by the majority of adolescents. Some adolescents stated they were attracted to certain foods by adverts they see on TV and social media. School food environments in urban Lusaka do not support healthy food choices. Policy reforms are required to increase access to affordable healthy food options in schools, and to curb the indiscriminate marketing of unhealthy foods to adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7460
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Policy
  • Schools
  • Zambia

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