Schools meals in french secondary state schools: compliance to national recommendations and schools catering patterns
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BACKGROUND: Recent reports on the lack of nutritional quality of meals served in schools have led public authorities to draft, in 1999, recommendations for restoring a balanced food supply. Following the survey carried out by the French food safety Agency in 2005-2006, which highlighted gaps in the implementation of these recommendations, a law passed in July 2010 plans to make these recommendations mandatory, as their 2007 revised version. Thus, the objective of this study was to assess initial school compliance with regard to this last revised version of the recommendations and to identify school patterns through their catering management and implication in a dietary project.
METHODS: Seven hundred and seven secondary state schools were questioned (570 were administrated by the Ministry of Education and 137 by the Ministry of Agriculture) on their catering practices. Twenty consecutive menus from each school were also analyzed with a specific coding system to establish its nutritional composition for comparison with the 2007 recommendations.
RESULTS: On average, schools complied with half of the recommendations. Good compliance was observed with the 2007 recommendations concerning fried products, starchy foods, fruits, and dairy products whereas very few schools were in compliance with recommendations concerning fish, cheeses and sweetened desserts containing less than 15 % fat and more than 20 g of sugar per portion. Furthermore, compliance with recommendations was significantly better for lunch meals, and even better for agricultural establishments. A 5-component meal was also associated with greater compliance with the recommendations. In addition, four school patterns were identified based on catering management practices. The first two categories of establishments had knowledge of the recommendations but exhibited different levels of application. The last two types of establishments had no knowledge of the recommendations and differed in their catering management practices.
CONCLUSION: Compliance with recommendations was contrasted, with high adequacy for some guidelines and low for others. Nevertheless, application of the current guidelines and real implication of the school in a dietary project did improve the dietary offer in such schools.