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Preschool and School Meal Policies: An Overview of What We Know about Regulation, Implementation, and Impact on Diet in the UK, Sweden, and Australia

School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TZ, UK
Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Stockholm County Council, SE-113 65 Stockholm, Sweden
Global Obesity Centre, School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong VIC 3220, Australia
Nutritional Epidemiology Group, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2017, 9(7), 736;
Received: 22 April 2017 / Revised: 29 June 2017 / Accepted: 3 July 2017 / Published: 11 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Intake and Behavior in Children)
School meals make significant contributions to healthy dietary behaviour, at a time when eating habits and food preferences are being formed. We provide an overview of the approaches to the provision, regulation, and improvement of preschool and primary school meals in the UK, Sweden, and Australia, three countries which vary in their degree of centralisation and regulation of school meals. Sweden has a centralised approach; all children receive free meals, and a pedagogical approach to meals is encouraged. Legislation demands that meals are nutritious. The UK system is varied and decentralised. Meals in most primary schools are regulated by food-based standards, but preschool-specific meal standards only exist in Scotland. The UK uses food groups (starchy foods, fruit and vegetables, proteins and dairy) in a healthy plate approach. Australian States and Territories all employ guidelines for school canteen food, predominantly using a “traffic light” approach outlining recommended and discouraged foods; however, most children bring food from home and are not covered by this guidance. The preschool standards state that food provided should be nutritious. We find that action is often lacking in the preschool years, and suggest that consistent policies, strong incentives for compliance, systematic monitoring, and an acknowledgement of the broader school eating environment (including home provided food) would be beneficial. View Full-Text
Keywords: school; preshool; children; school meals; nutrition intake; policy school; preshool; children; school meals; nutrition intake; policy
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Lucas, P.J.; Patterson, E.; Sacks, G.; Billich, N.; Evans, C.E.L. Preschool and School Meal Policies: An Overview of What We Know about Regulation, Implementation, and Impact on Diet in the UK, Sweden, and Australia. Nutrients 2017, 9, 736.

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