“What Do We Do For Snacks?”: The Perceived Role of Parks and Recreation Administrators in the Youth Sports Food Environment
Keywords:Nutrition, children, qualitative research, youth sports
Dietary intake is influenced by multiple systems, as highlighted in the Social- Ecological Model, including community influences like community programs. In this context, parks and recreation administrators may have a role in the types of snacks and beverages provided during youth sports. The current study focused on understanding park administrators’ experiences relative to the youth sports environment, including their responsibility and influence on the food environment. This was an exploratory qualitative case study conducted in Utah. Semi-structured interviews with parks and recreation administrators were completed via phone by a research assistant. A qualitative case study analysis was conducted by two researchers. In addition to the interviews, the websites of all the park and recreation sites were searched and phone calls were made to check physical locations for nutrition fliers/information. Three themes emerged through qualitative case study analysis. The first theme was the administrators’ role in the youth parks and recreation activities. The second theme was the administrators’ awareness of the food environment within youth sports. The final theme was the administrators’ role in influencing more nutritious snacks at these youth sporting activities. The results from this case study suggest that the parks and recreation administrators within Utah valued the importance of nutritional snacks and beverages within youth sporting activities and were supportive of the food environment improving. Several of the parks and recreation administrators in this study agreed that their further involvement (i.e., guidelines on snacks and beverages) in the youth sports food environment could improve the environment and better effect youth who are participating, thus enhancing opportunities to improve overall health and well-being. The results from this study show that administrators could bring awareness to youth sports nutrition and support guidelines for the types of snacks and beverages brought to youth sporting activities. Administrators could work with dietitians to develop information that would be appropriate to distribute to youth sports participants and parents. Providing information about what kinds of snacks to bring has the possibility to improve the conditions of the youth sports food environment. Additionally, consideration for policy changes in youth sports and recreation center facilities could be explored.
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