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The Impact of the Universal Infant Free School Meal Policy on Dietary Quality in English and Scottish Primary School Children: Evaluation of a Natural Experiment

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Public Health Policy Evaluation Unit, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London W6 8RP, UK
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Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands
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School of Economics, University of Bristol, Priory Road Complex, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK
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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK
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Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon-Tyne NE27 0QJ, UK
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Health Analytics, Lane Clark & Peacock LLP, London W1U 1DQ, UK
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Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1QU, UK
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MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michael Wirth
Nutrients 2022, 14(8), 1602; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081602
Received: 27 January 2022 / Revised: 25 March 2022 / Accepted: 28 March 2022 / Published: 12 April 2022
(This article belongs to the Section Nutrition and Public Health)
The Universal Infant Free School Meal (UIFSM) policy was introduced in September 2014 in England and January 2015 in Scotland and offered all infant schoolchildren (ages 4–7 years) a free school lunch, regardless of income. Yet, impacts of UIFSM on dietary intakes or social inequalities are not known. A difference-in-differences study using the National Diet and Nutrition Survey assessed pooled pre-UIFSM (2010–2014) and post-UIFSM (2014–2017) dietary data. English or Scottish infant schoolchildren (4–7 years; n = 458) were the intervention group, with junior schoolchildren (8–11 years; n = 401) as controls. We found that implementation of UIFSM led to an increase in infant schoolchildren having a school meal. Impacts on key food groups such as fruit and vegetables or sweetened beverages were not seen. However, there was evidence that the UIFSM policy lowered consumption of foods associated with packed lunches, such as crisps, and some nutrients, such as total fat and sodium. Policy impacts differed by income group, with larger effect sizes in low-income children. In conclusion, evaluation of UIFSM demonstrated some improvements in dietary quality but the findings suggest school meal quality needs to be improved to fully realise the benefits of UIFSM. View Full-Text
Keywords: school lunch; nutrition; children; universal free school meals; policy evaluation school lunch; nutrition; children; universal free school meals; policy evaluation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Parnham, J.C.; Chang, K.; Millett, C.; Laverty, A.A.; von Hinke, S.; Pearson-Stuttard, J.; de Vocht, F.; White, M.; Vamos, E.P. The Impact of the Universal Infant Free School Meal Policy on Dietary Quality in English and Scottish Primary School Children: Evaluation of a Natural Experiment. Nutrients 2022, 14, 1602. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081602

AMA Style

Parnham JC, Chang K, Millett C, Laverty AA, von Hinke S, Pearson-Stuttard J, de Vocht F, White M, Vamos EP. The Impact of the Universal Infant Free School Meal Policy on Dietary Quality in English and Scottish Primary School Children: Evaluation of a Natural Experiment. Nutrients. 2022; 14(8):1602. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081602

Chicago/Turabian Style

Parnham, Jennie C., Kiara Chang, Christopher Millett, Anthony A. Laverty, Stephanie von Hinke, Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, Frank de Vocht, Martin White, and Eszter P. Vamos. 2022. "The Impact of the Universal Infant Free School Meal Policy on Dietary Quality in English and Scottish Primary School Children: Evaluation of a Natural Experiment" Nutrients 14, no. 8: 1602. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081602

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