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Can J Public Health. 2006 Sep-Oct;97(5):357-61.

School region socio-economic status and geographic locale is associated with food behaviour of Ontario and Alberta adolescents.

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  • 1Health Behaviour Research Group, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON.



In an attempt to elucidate broader determinants of adolescent dietary intake and habits, food intakes and selected food behaviours of grades 9 and 10 students from Ontario and Alberta were examined according to school region socio-economic status and urban/rural locale.


Using a stratified random sample framework, 53 high schools from 28 school boards were recruited (45 public and 8 private; 33 urban and 20 rural). Median family income for Canada Post's forward sortation area of the school was used to define school region SES. Public and private schools were compared as a proxy measure of SES. A web-based survey of food intake and behaviours, including a 24-hour diet recall and food frequency questionnaire, was completed by 2,621 students in grades 9 and 10. Comparison of intakes and behaviours by school designation as urban/rural, public/private or regional SES (generalized linear model procedure) controlled for student gender and grade distribution and number of participants within schools.


School region SES ranged from dollars 40,959 to dollars 85,922/year. Vegetable and fruit consumption (p < 0.001), fibre intake (p < 0.001) and frequency of breakfast consumption (p < 0.01) increased with increasing income, while added sugar intake decreased (p < 0.01). Private versus public school students had lower intakes of sweetened drinks (p < 0.01) and higher intakes of fibre (p=0.02). Rural students reported higher mean intakes of calcium (1106 vs. 995 mg/day, respectively, p = 0.03) and milk products (2.7 vs. 2.3 servings/day, p < 0.01) than urban students.


Selected food behaviours of youth from Ontario and Alberta improve with increasing school SES and vary with rural/urban school locale. Identifying regional demographics may be useful in tailoring healthy eating programs to the specific school.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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