The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children has doubled over recent decades with 2025% of Australian children now overweight. As excessive weight gain in childhood tracks into adulthood preventing weight gain from occurring in childhood has been recommended as an important strategy to improve child wellbeing and reduce future chronic disease. Child diet is a key driver of population weight gain with research in developed countries, including Australia, indicating that children fail to consume sufficient serves of fruits and vegetables, and over consume energy dense, nutrient poor foods and beverages. Creating environments more supportive of child healthy eating has therefore been identified as an obesity prevention priority.
Systematic review evidence demonstrates that school based healthy eating policies and practices can improve child diet and impact on child obesity. Despite the existence of school nutrition policies and guidelines, international research suggests that most schools fail to implement such initiatives. A recent review of the adoption of healthy eating policies in Australian schools found that compliance with such policies in canteens was low, guidelines were rarely adhered to in terms of the provision of certain foods and drinks, and children had preferences for non-healthy foods. To ensure the potential benefits of school healthy eating policies are realised, identification of strategies that are effective in implementing healthy school canteen or nutrition policies is required. However, little research has been carried out on how to improve implementation of such policies. Without knowing how to improve implementation, the community does not benefit from the considerable investment in research.