Developing canteen staff’ competencies towards a user perspective providing healthy meals for vocational school students

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalAbstractResearchpeer-review


Dietary patterns are strongly associated with vocational students’ physical and mental health, essential for sustaining education. Vocational school canteens are, therefore, apparent health-promoting settings for supporting healthy eating. The canteens' display of healthy food, nudging, and choice architecture can change young people's eating habits. The canteen staff’s communication with the students can be the key to maintaining healthy meals.
The study aimed to enhance the staff's competencies and motivation to engage in healthy food production and meal presentation from the student's perspective. In addition, to develop a dialogical approach in the staff's health-promoting communication about the meals to promote the students' engagement in healthy eating and connectedness to the canteen.
Materials and methods
This participatory action research design uses systematic inquiry and prioritizes co-constructing research in direct collaboration with those concerned for action and change. The grounded theory method was pervasive throughout the project. Seventeen canteen staff aged between 21 and 60 participated in four iterative workshops concerning communication exercises, how to interact with the students, healthy food production, meal display, choice architecture, and nudging. The data collection methods comprised participating observations, photos, surveys, and field notes. Between the workshops, the canteen staff performed specific actions including performing 38 structured interviews regarding students’ eating habits. One week was an intervention with nudging and primers to increase the sale of mainly plant-based today’s dishes evaluated by bon-data. Three evaluation interviews were conducted after the fourth workshop.
It was essential for the students to feel reassured that they could choose the new, healthier dishes. They appreciated that the dishes looked familiar and appealing by absorbing energy density through sauce, dressing, or juiciness. They preferred the content to be either meat or other protein and that they had different options. The staff's dialogic hosting invited students to dare to taste new dishes. The nudging experiment increased the sales of today's dish.

The canteen staff learned to interact with students using welcoming communication that reassured and changed the students’ buying habits. They engaged in healthy food production and experienced greater job satisfaction, a prerequisite for the sustainability of health promotion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date18 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2024
EventEuropean Conference on Health Promotion
- Medical University, Lodz, Poland
Duration: 17 Jun 202418 Jun 2024
Conference number: 12


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Health Promotion
LocationMedical University
Internet address

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