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Journal of Human Sciences and Extension

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School context, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness, Policy, Adolescents


The school nutrition context is comprised of supportive environmental features, programs, policies, and social relationships that shape students’ healthy dietary choices and patterns. When engaging students as change agents, advocates, and partners in making healthy nutrition choices easier, environmental assessment tools developed for adults may be too complex or inappropriately tailored for youth. Adolescents need practical, user-tailored tools that reliably measure the food and beverage environments they encounter in school to inform youth-led changes to the school nutrition context. To meet this need, an evidence-based school environmental assessment was adapted for use in high schools by students as evaluators. Cooperative Extension educators engaged students in experiential learning to adapt the nutrition component of an environmental tool (SPAN-ET) designed for elementary school contexts to high school applications. The resulting tool is a comprehensive nutrition-specific adaptation that incorporates considerations of food security, structures for youth-driven data collection, and data-identified areas for action. The tool was adapted in one high school setting and piloted in three additional high schools. Student-generated data were used to prioritize and plan policy, systems, and environmental strategies aimed at increasing healthy food/beverage access and supporting healthy eating/drinking behaviors to reduce hunger and obesity risk factors in schools.

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