School-made lunch 'better' for children

January 21, 2021

Packing a lunchbox with fruit, sandwiches, and snacks is common practice for most Australian families. But what if there was another way?

Flinders University researchers investigating the pros and cons of school-provided lunches say uniform delivery of lunchtime food at school could be a solution to better childhood nutrition and learning in Australia.

Flinders Caring Futures Institute deputy director Professor Rebecca Golley says universal school-provided lunch models - a common practice in other countries such as the UK - would involve all children in the school being provided with the same nutritious diet, with less room for sweet, salty or fatty 'treats' in the mix.

"A universal school-provided lunch model could help to ensure all children have access to food at school, reduce stigma of children not having lunch or having different types of foods to their peers, and help to ensure children are provided with healthy lunch options," Professor Golley says, after publishing the results of an Australian study.

"The meal would be prepared on site and served to children in their classroom, school hall or school yard, compared with the current school food model in Australia where generally parents provide lunch to their child/ren, either as a lunchbox packed from home or purchased from a school canteen," says nutrition and dietetics researcher Associate Professor Golley.

"While there will need to be an initial investment to set up the necessary infrastructure and getting the right policies and guidelines in place, what is emerging from some work around Australia is that this public health strategy can deliver in terms of learning, student engagement and wellbeing.

"By children being provided with healthy meals at school we think it will help children to concentrate in the classroom and support their learning."

The Flinders University research team has separately completed a project describing the dietary intake of 5-12-year-old children during school hours.

They found that 40% of the energy kids consume at school comes from unhealthy food, with most children consuming no or very few serves of vegetables, protein-rich foods, or dairy during school hours. Commonly consumed foods included biscuits, processed meat, packaged snacks, bread and fruit.

A separate study conducted recently in NSW found that over two thirds of purchases made at school canteens are choices high in saturated fat, total sugars, and salt.

"Good nutrition during children's school years supports their growth, learning and development, with primary school aged children consuming up to almost half of their daily energy intake during school hours," says fellow Flinders researcher Brittany Johnson.

"Australian families constantly face the challenge of packing lunchboxes that are nutritious, safe and quick, and that their children will eat".

School lunchbox tips and tricks:The 2020 study gathered feedback from the education, health and social services, non-government, food industry, and parents, considered several approaches, such as a 'community restaurant' where meals could be prepared and service different community groups, or off-site meals service by dedicated food preparation staff with meals delivered in bulk to school grounds.

Participants also considered the feasibility of a student/self-food preparation model involving students choosing and preparing their own lunch before school or in the classroom at a food creation station or mini supermarket.

The top ranked option was the universal school-provided lunch model, where existing canteen facilities and infrastructure could be used to prepare meals on site, and fees for parents subsidised based on their family income. Teachers could also eat the meals, and students could have the option to be involved in the cooking.

"By capturing the social value, we will be looking at the broader benefits than just nutrition and health so see the broader reaching potential impacts," Professor Golley says.
-end-


Flinders University

Related Nutrition Articles from Brightsurf:

Here's how to improve packaged foods nutrition
FOP nutrition labeling results in a significant improvement in the nutritional quality of food products.

'Front of package' nutrition labels improved nutrition quality
A new study analyzing 16 years of data on tens of thousands of products finds that the adoption of nutrition data on ''front of package'' labels is associated with improved nutritional content of those foods and their competitors.

Aquaculture's role in nutrition in the COVID-19 era
A new paper from American University examines the economics of an aquaculture industry of the future that is simultaneously environmentally sustainable and nutritious for the nearly 1 billion people worldwide who depend on it.

Fathers are more likely to be referred for nutrition or exercise counseling
Fatherhood status has been linked to medical providers' weight-related practices or counseling referrals.

Refugee children get better health, nutrition via e-vouchers
Electronic food vouchers provided young Rohingya children in Bangladeshi refugee camps with better health and nutrition than direct food assistance, according to new research led by Cornell University, in conjunction with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Leaders call for 'Moonshot' on nutrition research
Leading nutrition and food policy experts outline a bold case for strengthening federal nutrition research in a live interactive session as part of NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).

Featured research from NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE
Press materials are now available for NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition.

Diet, nutrition have profound effects on gut microbiome
A new literature review from scientists at George Washington University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that nutrition and diet have a profound impact on the microbial composition of the gut.

Are women getting adequate nutrition during preconception and pregnancy?
In a Maternal & Child Nutrition analysis of published studies on the dietary habits of women who were trying to conceive or were pregnant, most studies indicated that women do not meet nutritional recommendations for vegetable, cereal grain, or folate intake.

Supermarkets and child nutrition in Africa
Hunger and undernutrition are widespread problems in Africa. At the same time, overweight, obesity, and related chronic diseases are also on the rise.

Read More: Nutrition News and Nutrition Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.