As providers of community-based physical activity programs, recreation and sports facilities serve as an important resource for health promotion. Unfortunately, the food environments within these settings often do not reflect healthy eating guidelines. This study sought to describe facilitators and barriers to implementing provincial nutrition guidelines in recreation and sports facilities in three Canadian provinces with nutrition guidelines. Semi-structured interviews were analysed thematically to identify facilitators and barriers to implementing provincial nutrition guidelines. Facilitators and barriers were then categorised using a modified “inside out” socio-ecological model that places health-related and other social environments at the centre. A total of 32 semi-structured interviews were conducted at two time-points across the three guideline provinces. Interview participants included recreation staff managers, facility committee or board members and recreation volunteers. Eight facilitators and barriers were identified across five levels of the inside out socio-ecological model. Facilitators included provincial or municipal expectations of guideline implementation, clear communication to staff around guideline directives and the presence of a champion within the community or facility who supported guideline implementation. Barriers included unhealthy food culture within community, competition from other food providers and issues within food service contracts that undermined healthy food provision. Findings reinforce the importance of top down (clear expectations regarding guideline implementation at the time of approval) and bottom up (need for buy-in from multiple stakeholders) approaches to ensure successful implementation of nutrition guidelines. The application of a modified socio-ecological model allowed for a more nuanced understanding of leverage points to support successful guideline implementation. Lay summary Healthy eating is an important behaviour for preventing chronic diseases. Supporting people to access healthy foods in places where they live, learn, work or play is a public health priority. Recreation and sports facilities are a setting where people can be physically active. Unfortunately, the food environment in these settings may not reflect nutrition guidelines. In this study, we interviewed key stakeholders from recreation and sports facilities in three Canadian provinces who had put guidelines for healthy eating in place. We used a specific framework to do this called the inside out socio-ecological model. Eight facilitators and barriers were identified using this model. Facilitators included provincial or municipal expectations of guideline implementation, clear communication to staff around guideline directives and the presence of a champion within the community or facility who supported guideline implementation. Barriers included unhealthy food culture within community, competition from other food providers and issues within food service contracts that undermined healthy food provision. Our findings can help people working in recreation and sports facilities to identify issues that may help or hinder healthy food provision in these settings.

This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)