Developing a tool to assess school food environments in the Pacific Islands | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Developing a tool to assess school food environments in the Pacific Islands

Project background:

School food and nutrition environments offer an entry point to reach children, parents, school staff and the wider community to improve food consumption behaviours and can include relevant policy and standards, provision of nutritious food in and near schools, nutrition education and complementary activities. After many years of limited coordination and effort to enact sustainable change, there is growing interest in improving SFNE in the Pacific Islands region.

In this project you will be part of a research team developing a tool that can be used to assess school food environments in the Pacific Islands. To date there has been some, but limited, work examining school food environments in the Pacific Islands region. Given the changes seen in food systems and food environments in this region, there is a critical need to develop a tool that can be used to assess, and track changes in SFNE.

This study will be starting during the ACPIR SRS period.

There is flexibility in the days/times that the student can work, and this will be negotiated at the start of the ACPIR SRS.

Primary supervisor: Dr Sarah Burkhart

Dr Burkhart is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at USC. Sarah’s work focuses on the provision of food and nutrition education in Pacific Island school settings. Sarah is the Chair of the Pacific School Food Network and has experience in leading externally funded projects in this area.

HDR student mentor: Ms Bridget Horsey

Ms Horsey is a PhD Candidate and has a Bachelor of Nutrition (Honours). Bridget’s PhD focuses on developing a food literacy framework for the Pacific Islands region and she contributes to several projects in this area.

External collaborators: The Pacific School Food Network Executive Team and other stakeholders across the Pacific Islands region.

For more information please contact Dr Sarah Burkhart

Students will be asked to assist the workings of this project in several ways, with tasks such as:

  • Reviewing literature
  • Assisting with the development of a tool to assess school food environments in the Pacific Islands region
  • Consulting with stakeholders
  • Developing a manuscript for publication


Deliverables will include

  • Contribution to a review of school food environment assessment tools (used globally)
  • Contribution to draft school food environment assessment tool
  • Contribution to a draft manuscript
  • A final presentation of the work undertaken

This project would suit a student with background understanding of, and an interest in food systems, nutrition/health, food production, education and policy.

In addition to the general ACPIR-SRS eligibility criteria, undergraduate students need to have successfully completed at least the requirements of first year for the Bachelor of Nutrition program or the Bachelor of Dietetics program for this project.

In addition to the general ACPIR-SRS selection criteria, personal attributes of collegiality, integrity, teamwork and reliability, attention to detail, critical thinking and initiative are required for this project.

Applicants are required to submit a resume and a brief statement outlining their interest in the project and how this fits with their career/research aspirations. Please note that applicants may be invited to take part in an interview as part of the selection process.