Workshop 4: 16:00 – 17:00

Exploring how to improve the ease and accessibility of using cashless canteen sales data for public health research.

Location: 2D2, Priory Road Complex, University of Bristol, 12 Priory Rd, Bristol BS8 1TU

Organisers: Alice Gilmour (School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University), Ruth Fairchild (School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University) & Rachel Bath (Nutrition and Obesity Team, Health Improvement Division, Public Health Wales)

For any questions about the workshop, please contact Alice Gilmour on


This workshop has been motivated by the difficulties encountered in trying to obtain school canteen sales data. It is hoped that conference delegates will share their experience and we can all learn from one another.

The Welsh School Meals (WSM) project is funded by Public Health Wales (PHW). The aim of the project was initially to investigate how achievable it is to use the data from secondary school canteen cashless payment systems to understand what food and drink young people are purchasing in school and its nutritional quality. The findings from this feasibility study were going to inform policy and practice.

Most secondary schools in Wales use a cashless catering system from one of seven providers. Semi-structured interviews with a representative from each cashless catering system provider (n=7) were conducted to explore how the various software functions, integrates and their capabilities. Parents or caregivers pay for meals via a cashless payment system and pupils use either contactless cards, thumb or finger biometric scanning to pay. This individual-level transaction data is being collected yet seems to not be used by either the school, LA or government.

Obtaining anonymised individual-level transactional data would provide a great insight into what pupils purchase throughout the school day. However, despite trying numerous strategies, the WSM project has encountered blockages which have prevented data acquisition.

School canteen transaction data is a form of digital footprints, and utilising it to evaluate what is currently being purchased by secondary school-aged pupils will provide a clear indication of their existing eating habits. Understanding the current landscape of food consumption during the school day will inform policymakers and practice in Public Health.

  • Introductions.
  • Welsh School Meals PowerPoint presentation: aims and objectives of the cashless data study, what has been found so far and why we believe this data will be invaluable for informing policy and practice.
  • Open discussion about the barriers encountered in accessing data for public health research and suggestions on how to overcome these.
  1. What have you found to be barriers in accessing data for public health research? Mind map or provide everyone with post-it notes to write ideas.
  2. Discuss the barriers of identifying whom owns the data. Share the WSM project experience; GDPR issues around sharing anonymised data; Data usage for public benefit.
  3. Discuss the barriers in engaging stakeholders (i.e., schools, LAs, data providers) in data collection. Share the WSM project experience; Busyness, school gatekeepers, buy-in, existing research agreements and partnerships.
  4. How could ease and accessibility obstacles be resolved? Open discussion.
  • Final remarks and closing of the workshop session.