Changes in the content of children’s school lunches across the school week.
Sommaire de l'article
ISSUE ADDRESSED: the school setting is an important context for the development of children’s eating behaviours. As most Australian children (86%) bring their lunch from home, knowledge of what parents provide in home-prepared school lunches can inform efforts to improve their nutritional quality. This study investigated the content of children’s home-prepared school lunches, considered variation across the school week, and explored gender and grade level differences.
METHODS: this observational analysis of children’s home-prepared school lunches was conducted in children attending the first three years of school at one of five northern Melbourne metropolitan schools. One hundred and seventy parents (response rate 12%) gave consent for their child’s lunch to be audited up to five times (minimum of three) across a one-month period. The food and beverage items of students’ school lunches were audited using the School Food Checklist.
RESULTS: the average home-prepared school lunch contained a sandwich, a piece of fruit and one and a half servings of extras (low nutritional value and/or high in added fat, salt or sugar). Servings of bread declined (Wilks’ Λ=0.82, p=0.01) from Monday to Friday and there were more servings of extras (Wilks’ Λ=0.79, p<0.01) on Monday than Wednesday. Younger children's lunches contained fewer servings of fruit (F(2,71.93)=4.84, p=0.03), vegetables (F(2,78.97)=3.86, p<0.05) and bread (F(2,140)=4.36, p=0.02) than those of older children. Girls' lunches contained significantly more vegetables than boys' lunches, (t(154.51)=-2.21, p=0.03).
CONCLUSIONS: lunches were high in extras and low in servings of vegetables and other healthy snacks with minor variations in the quantity of bread and extras across the school week.