Open Access Research article

Improving children's nutrition environments: A survey of adoption and implementation of nutrition guidelines in recreational facilities

Dana Lee Olstad123, Shauna M Downs12, Kim D Raine13, Tanya R Berry14 and Linda J McCargar12*

Author Affiliations

1 Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition, 2-021D Li Ka Shing Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E1, USA

2 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, 4-10 Agriculture/Forestry Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P5, USA

3 Centre for Health Promotion Studies, 1001 College Plaza, Edmonton, AB T6G 2C8, USA

4 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, 6-37 General Services Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:423  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-423

Published: 1 June 2011



Although the mandate of recreational facilities is to enhance well-being, many offer foods inconsistent with recommendations for healthy eating. Little is known regarding recreational facility food environments and how they might be improved, as few studies exist. The Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth (ANGCY) are intended to ensure access to healthy food choices in schools, childcare and recreational facilities. This study investigated awareness, adoption and implementation of the ANGCY among recreational facilities in Alberta, Canada, one year following their release.


A cross-sectional telephone survey was conducted from June - December, 2009 (n = 151) with managers of publicly funded recreational facilities that served food. The questionnaire included 10 closed and 7 open ended questions to assess the organizational priority for healthy eating, awareness, adoption and implementation of the ANGCY. Chi-squared tests examined quantitative variables, while qualitative data were analysed using directed content analysis. Greenhalgh's model of diffusion of complex innovations within health service organizations constituted the theoretical framework for the study.


One half of respondents had heard of the ANGCY, however their knowledge of them was limited. Although 51% of facilities had made changes to improve the nutritional quality of foods offered in the past year, only a small fraction (11%) of these changes were motivated by the ANGCY. At the time of the survey, 14% of facilities had adopted the ANGCY and 6% had implemented them. Barriers to adoption and implementation were primarily related to perceived negative attributes of the ANGCY, the inner (organizational) context, and negative feedback received during the implementation process. Managers strongly perceived that implementing nutrition guidelines would limit their profit-making ability.


If fully adopted and implemented, the ANGCY have the potential to make a significant and sustained contribution to improving the recreational facility food environment, however one year following their release, awareness, adoption and implementation of the ANGCY remained low. A mandated policy approach could offer an efficacious, cost-effective means of improving the food environment within recreational facilities.

childhood obesity; childhood obesity prevention; recreational facilities; food environment; nutrition guidelines; Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth