The feasibility and acceptability of a rewards system based on food purchasing behaviour in secondary school cashless canteens: the Eat4Treats (E4T) cluster feasibility, non-randomised, controlled intervention study

Sarah E. Moore, Ciara Rooney, Charlotte E. Neville, Ryan McConville, Frank Kee, Claire T. McEvoy, Jayne V. Woodside, Judith Hanvey, Michelle C. McKinley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background
Using rewards may be an effective method to positively influence children’s eating behaviour but evidence to date is limited, particularly in older children. The cashless canteen systems in schools provides a unique opportunity to implement a food-based reward scheme but intervention development work and feasibility testing is needed. The overall aim of the E4T feasibility study was to examine the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a rewards scheme based on the food purchasing behaviour of pupils in cashless canteens in secondary schools.

Methods
A non-randomised, controlled, parallel-group cluster feasibility study conducted in four secondary schools (two intervention and two control) serving areas of the highest social deprivation in Northern Ireland. During the 4-month trial, pupils earned points for foods purchased at the school canteen, with better nutritional choices having a higher value. Pupils could exchange the points they earned for rewards (e.g. stationery, vouchers, sports equipment) via the E4T website. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected from year 9 and 10 pupils (boys and girls aged 12–14 years), teachers and canteen staff to address the feasibility questions.

Results
Two intervention (one urban, one rural) and one control (urban) school completed the study. Seventy-one percent of 12–14-year-old pupils consented to take part; 1% of parents opted their child out of the study. Questionnaire completion rates were high (6 and 11% of questionnaires were partially completed at baseline and follow-up respectively). Collecting data on food consumed in the canteen was challenging logistically. Focus groups with pupils indicated that the overall concept of E4T was well received and there was a high degree of satisfaction with the rewards available. Pupils and teachers made several suggestions for improvements.

Conclusions
E4T was successfully implemented as a result of collaboration between schools, school canteens and cashless canteen providers working with a multidisciplinary research team. It was acceptable to pupils, teachers and canteen staff. The findings suggest a few areas for refining implementation and evaluation processes that would need to be considered in the design of a larger trial, particularly resources required to streamline implementation and ways to optimise pupil engagement.

Trial registration
Under review with https://www.clinicaltrials.gov (retrospective registration—reg number and weblink to be added).

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages21
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 09 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Diet
  • Food choice
  • Intervention
  • Nutrition
  • Rewards
  • School food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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