Food-Related Beliefs, Eating Behavior, and Classroom Food Practices of Middle School Teachers



ABSTRACT: This study examined classroom food practices and eating behavior of middle school teachers from 16 schools in a metropolitan area, located in the upper Midwest. In winter 1999–2000, teachers in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade were surveyed (response rate = 70%; n = 490/701). Questions addressed teachers' classroom food practices, eating behavior while at school, personal health, and attitudes about the school food environment. Use of food as an incentive/reward for students was a common classroom practice in middle schools, and most foods did not support development of healthy eating patterns by young adolescents. Candy was the most frequently used food item, reported by 73% of teachers, followed by cookies/doughnuts (37%), sweetened drinks (35%), and pizza (28%). Many middle school teachers did not role model healthy eating behavior at school. Prevalent use of vending was a particular concern, with beverage and snack vending use reported by 62% and 35% of teachers, respectively. Most vending items purchased were sweetened drinks (57%) and high-fat or high-sugar snacks (85%). Low perceived personal health, high-fat scores, and low support for the school food environment were some of the significant correlates of teachers' eating behavior. School and health professionals should continue to advocate for schoolwide policies and programs that support students and teachers if the goal of an integrated healthy school food environment is to be realized.