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Nutrient intakes of primary school children

Background In April 2004 Hull City Council introduced free healthy school meals for all primary and special school pupils (approximately 20,500 children from 71 primary schools and 6 special schools) in an attempt to reduce health and education inequalities. The meals were prepared to meet the Caroline Walker Trust (CWT) nutritional guidelines for primary schools. This study was carried out to assess the nutritional content of the meals and children’s actual intake from school dinners in comparison to children’s nutritional intake from packed lunches. The study then aimed to assess how food intake at lunch time impacted upon food consumed for the remainder of the day. Methods Children were recruited onto the study from two schools in Hull. The schools were selected by the number of pupils on roll and the number of children eligible for free school meals. The first phase of research assessing lunch consumption was conducted with 147 children, aged 8 – 11 years. School meals and packed lunches were weighed and photographed before and after consumption to assess actual intakes. The second phase assessed total daily food and nutrient intakes in a small sample of 20 children. All assessments were carried out over five consecutive days. Results The food provided by the schools for lunch met the majority of the CWT nutritional guidelines, however children’s intake did not. Children who ate a hot school dinner consumed only the foods they liked from the school meals provided leading to a low energy and nutrient intake. Large differences, for example 367kcal in comparison to 760kcal, in nutritional intakes were found between those children who ate a hot school dinner and those who ate a packed lunch. Children who consumed a packed lunch consumed significantly (p less than 0.05) more energy, fat, saturated fat, non-milk extrinsic (NME) sugar and sodium than children who ate a hot school dinner, but with this consumed more micronutrients. However, neither of the groups of children met the CWT guidelines for lunch time micronutrient intakes. The food diary analysis revealed that those children who ate a hot school dinner went on to consume food high in energy, fat, saturated fat, NME sugar and sodium later in the day. The significant differences in nutrient intakes between the hot dinner and packed lunch groups at lunch time disappeared when total daily intakes were compared. Differences were found between the children’s nutritional intake from the two schools, which may be due to socio economic factors. Conclusion The free healthy school dinners were not having the desired effect of improving children’s nutritional intake, children chose to eat the foods they liked and left the rest. Children who ate a free healthy school dinner went on to consume foods high in energy, fat, NME sugar and sodium later in the day and overall did not have a lower intake of these macronutrients than those children who had a packed lunch.
Date January 2008
CreatorsGatenby, Lisa Ann
PublisherUniversity of Hull
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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