Examining Elementary School Children’s Knowledge about Food and Nutrition in Southwestern Ontario, Canada

Publication: Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
11 January 2022


Purpose: Knowledge is fundamental to helping children make nutritional choices that support lifelong healthy behaviours. This study (i) investigates elementary school children’s knowledge about food and nutrition and (ii) identifies sociodemographic factors influencing children’s reported knowledge.
Methods: In 2017–2019, a survey was administered to 2443 students (grades 5–8) at 60 schools across southwestern Ontario, Canada, and a parent survey was used to validate self-reported sociodemographics. Multiple regression was used to analyse children’s knowledge scores and related sociodemographic factors. A total knowledge score was calculated by summing correct responses derived from 46 individual questions in the student survey.
Results: Mean total knowledge score was 29.2 out of a possible 46 points (63.5% correct). Students demonstrated some knowledge and awareness of strategies to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption, healthy food selection, nutrition, and food preparation skills, although knowledge of food guide recommendations and locally sourced produce were limited. Female sex, family income, and rurality were associated with higher knowledge scores.
Conclusions: Results provide insight regarding strengths and gaps in elementary-school children’s food and nutrition knowledge. Poor performance of students on specific food guide-related questions suggests that the general guidance of the 2019 Canada’s Food Guide might be better understood by children and adolescents.


Objectif. Les connaissances sont essentielles pour aider les enfants à faire des choix nutritionnels qui favoriseront des comportements sains tout au long de leur vie. Cette étude (i) évalue les connaissances des enfants du primaire à propos des aliments et de la nutrition et (ii) identifie les facteurs sociodémographiques qui influent sur les connaissances rapportées par les enfants.
Méthodes. De 2017 à 2019, un sondage a été mené auprès de 2443 élèves (de la 5e à la 8e année) dans 60 écoles du sud-ouest de l’Ontario, au Canada, et un sondage a été réalisé auprès des parents afin de valider les données sociodémographiques autodéclarées. Une régression multiple a été utilisée pour analyser les scores relatifs aux connaissances des enfants et les facteurs sociodémographiques associés. Un score total des connaissances a été calculé en additionnant le nombre de bonnes réponses sur 46 questions individuelles du sondage auprès des élèves.
Résultats. Le score total moyen relatif aux connaissances était de 29,2 sur un total possible de 46 points (63,5 % de bonnes réponses). Les élèves ont démontré un certain niveau de connaissances et de sensibilisation quant aux stratégies visant à encourager la consommation de fruits et légumes, aux choix d’aliments santé, à la nutrition et aux compétences associées à la préparation des aliments. Leurs connaissances des recommandations du Guide alimentaire et des produits locaux étaient toutefois limitées. Le sexe féminin, le revenu familial et la ruralité étaient associés à des scores de connaissances plus élevés.
Conclusions. Les résultats donnent un aperçu des forces et des lacunes quant aux connaissances que possèdent les enfants du primaire en matière d’aliments et de nutrition. La faible performance des élèves sur des questions liées au Guide alimentaire suggère que les recommandations générales de l’édition 2019 du Guide alimentaire canadien pourraient être mieux comprises par les enfants et les adolescents.

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Financial support: This work was supported by the 2016 Weston Seeding Food Innovation Grant. Graduate student funding was provided by the Children’s Health Research Institute Graduate Scholarship, Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and Western Graduate Research Scholarship. Funders did not have any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, writing, or publication of this study.
Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Information & Authors


Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research
Volume 83Number 2June 2022
Pages: 59 - 67
Editor: Naomi Cahill


Version of record online: 11 January 2022

Key Words

  1. child nutrition
  2. elementary school
  3. food skill
  4. nutrition knowledge
  5. food literacy


  1. nutrition chez les enfants
  2. école primaire
  3. compétences alimentaires
  4. connaissances en nutrition
  5. littératie alimentaire



Paige Colley PhD
Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Western University, London, ON
Jamie A. Seabrook PhD
School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Brescia University College at Western University, London, ON
Sarah J. Woodruff PhD
Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON
Jason Gilliland PhD
Department of Geography and Environment, Western University, London, ON

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