An examination of the roles played by early adolescent children in interactions with their local food environment

Rachel Engler-Stringer, Joelle Schaefer, Tracy Ridalls


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine how pre- and early adolescent (10–14 years old) children from a wide range of neighbourhoods interact with their local food environment (FE), with a focus on the foods and food sources they access and their locations. Children in this age group are developing independence and mobility within (and beyond) their home neighbourhoods but are somewhat geographically bound as they cannot yet drive.

METHODS: This research consists of qualitative interviews with 31 children (15 males, 16 females) aged 10–14 years living in socio-economically diverse neighbourhoods across Saskatoon, SK. A thematic analysis was conducted.

RESULTS: Children’s descriptions of what constitutes their neighbourhood FE were varied, ranging from a couple of city blocks to several kilometres from home. Children were familiar with the types of establishment that sell food within their perceived neighbourhood. When children purchased their own food they most frequently cited buying snacks such as ice cream, candy and slushes, and the majority of these purchases were made in convenience stores, gas stations and grocery stores. Few children reported frequenting fast-food or other restaurants without adults, and when they did it was usually to buy snacks such as French fries and ice cream rather than meals.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results highlight the importance of interventions targeted to this age group, in which personal food choices were reported almost exclusively as being energy- but not nutrient-dense snack foods.


Children; environment; diet; food and nutrition; eatin

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