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What's on offer? Food for our kids in social spaces

Project Reference: 02-2018

Status: Ongoing

Commencement Date: October 2018

Project Duration: 12 months


This project will provide safefood with up-to-date evidence on the nature and quality of food provision in two specified social environments that are designed for children to play and engage in physical activity on the island of Ireland (IOI). The project will examine the beliefs, attitudes and motivations of key stakeholders working and engaging in these environments using a qualitative methodological approach and explore the skills and resources which may support parents to navigate these particular food environments.

The aims of the project will be achieved through four key objectives which are divided into five study tasks.

Task 1: Conduct a literature review on the extant research evidence on the experiences of parents when engaging in social activities in indoor recreational spaces with their children.

Task 2: An audit of food provision in sports/leisure centres and play/activity centres (recreational centres) which children and their parents frequently attend. These centres (n=65) will be located in cities and towns on the island of Ireland. The audit will examine the range of food on offer, the nutritional quality of the food, the relative portion sizes and descriptive observations of the food environment.

Task 3: A sample of the audited centres will be used to develop detailed case-studies on the determinants of foods provided and selected in these environments. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with managers, food servers and parents in a sample of 5 centres. The interviews will provide a 360-degree perspective on the perceptions, motivations and drivers of the decision-making process.

Task 4: Focus groups will be conducted with parents from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The groups will be recruited from community areas and will explore, in detail, the experiences of parents in active social spaces and the food and eating intentions of parents in these environments.

Task 5: Report on the study progress and outcomes, including a final report providing a summary of the findings and recommendations for commercial operations and for parents to create positive and healthy food experiences when engaging in these food environments.

Principal Contractor(s):

Dr Celine Murrin, University College Dublin  


Prof Moira Dean, Queens University Belfast 


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