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School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour

A special issue of Nutrients (ISSN 2072-6643). This special issue belongs to the section "Nutritional Policies and Education for Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 October 2023) | Viewed by 26302

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Health & Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Interests: curriculum development, evaluation, and teacher professional development; K–12 nutrition education, healthy school meals, school gardens, and wellness policy; sustainable food systems and agro-ecological food production; farm, food safety, child nutrition, food security, and nutrition education policy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Students around the globe depend on school meals for nourishment. For many students, school meals are the healthiest and most reliable meals of the day, and school meals have the potential to positively influence children’s dietary behaviours, thus providing so much more than just nutrition during the noonday meal.

School meals can model healthy food environments set up to be a positive and engaging eating experience. Furthermore, when school meals are connected to the curriculum across subjects such as biology, social studies, environmental studies, and health, they can become an integrated part of the school day. This builds students’ interest and excitement in selecting and eating healthful options at school meals.

What we need in the literature is more research reporting on novel and innovative ways for school meals to have a positive influence on children, on what they understand about food, how they feel about food, and ultimately what they eat. This can range from educational programs that connect to school meals, to altering what foods are served and how they are presented, to changing the meal environment.

This Special Issue of Nutrients, entitled, “School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour” encourages the submission of original qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies based on interventions, programs, practices, and policies that strengthen our understanding of how school meals can build positive dietary behaviours in children.

Dr. Pamela A. Koch
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Nutrients is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • school meals
  • school-based intervention
  • food and nutrition education
  • dietary behaviour
  • educational intervention
  • policies, systems, and environments
  • qualitative
  • quantitative
  • mixed methods

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

12 pages, 1095 KiB  
Article
Parent Willingness to Pay for School Feeding Programs in Junior High Schools in Malang Regency, Indonesia
by Ishak Halim Octawijaya, Masahide Kondo, Ai Hori and Masao Ichikawa
Nutrients 2023, 15(14), 3212; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15143212 - 19 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1329
Abstract
In Indonesia, school feeding programs have not been established nationally due to the government’s limited budget. To examine the possibility of copayment for school feeding programs, parents’ intentions to use the school feeding programs and their willingness to pay (WTP) for these programs [...] Read more.
In Indonesia, school feeding programs have not been established nationally due to the government’s limited budget. To examine the possibility of copayment for school feeding programs, parents’ intentions to use the school feeding programs and their willingness to pay (WTP) for these programs should be considered. We conducted an online questionnaire survey among the parents of junior high school students in all five public junior high schools in the Kepanjen District of Malang Regency, East Java Province, Indonesia. We used the contingent valuation method to elicit parents’ WTP for school feeding and calculated the price elasticity of school feeding. Factors associated with the WTP were examined using logistic regression analysis. Of the 940 participants, 90% intended to use school feeding programs, and 30% were willing to pay Rp 15,000 (USD 1.05) or higher per meal. Of the 944 students (participants’ children), all but two students consumed meals or snacks at school, with 74% consuming foods three or more times daily. Higher WTP for school feeding was associated with frequent food consumption at school, higher income, and a better perception of meals at school. In contrast, lower WTP was associated with more household members. Most parents intended to use school feeding programs with certain WTP irrespective of the price of school feeding. Therefore, school feeding in Indonesia might be expanded through copayment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
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12 pages, 297 KiB  
Article
Packed School Lunch Food Consumption: A Childhood Plate Waste Nutrient Analysis
by Jack R. Thomas, Derek Hanson, Ashley Chinnan-Pothen, Christine Freaney and Jill Silverman
Nutrients 2023, 15(5), 1116; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15051116 - 23 Feb 2023
Viewed by 2520
Abstract
Packed school lunch consumption remains a sparsely studied aspect of childhood nutrition. Most American research focuses on in-school meals provided through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The wide variety of available in-home packed lunches are usually nutritionally inferior compared to the highly [...] Read more.
Packed school lunch consumption remains a sparsely studied aspect of childhood nutrition. Most American research focuses on in-school meals provided through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The wide variety of available in-home packed lunches are usually nutritionally inferior compared to the highly regulated in-school meals. The purpose of this study was to examine the consumption of home-packed lunches in a sample of elementary-grade children. Through weighing packed school lunches in a 3rd grade class, mean caloric intake was recorded at 67.3% (32.7% plate waste) of solid foods, while sugar-sweetened beverage intake reported a 94.6% intake. This study reported no significant consumption change in the macronutrient ratio. Intake showed significantly reduced levels of calories, sodium, cholesterol, and fiber from the home-packed lunches (p < 0.05). The packed school lunch consumption rates for this class were similar to those reported for the regulated in-school (hot) lunches. Calories, sodium, and cholesterol intake are within childhood meal recommendations. What is encouraging is that the children were not “filling up” on more processed foods at the expense of nutrient dense foods. Of concern is that these meals still fall short on several parameters, especially low fruit/vegetable intake and high simple sugar consumption. Overall, intake moved in a healthier direction compared to the meals packed from home. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
14 pages, 7967 KiB  
Article
Parent Perception of School Meals in the San Joaquin Valley during COVID-19: A Photovoice Project
by Tatum M. Sohlberg, Emma C. Higuchi, Valeria M. Ordonez, Gabriela V. Escobar, Ashley De La Rosa, Genoveva Islas, Cecilia Castro, Kenneth Hecht, Christina E. Hecht, Janine S. Bruce and Anisha I. Patel
Nutrients 2023, 15(5), 1087; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15051087 - 22 Feb 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2307
Abstract
School-based nutrition programs are crucial to reducing food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic adversely impacted students’ school meal participation. This study seeks to understand parent views of school meals during COVID-19 to inform efforts to improve participation in school meal programs. Photovoice methodology was [...] Read more.
School-based nutrition programs are crucial to reducing food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic adversely impacted students’ school meal participation. This study seeks to understand parent views of school meals during COVID-19 to inform efforts to improve participation in school meal programs. Photovoice methodology was used to explore parental perception of school meals in San Joaquin Valley, California, a region of predominately Latino farmworker communities. Parents in seven school districts photographed school meals for a one-week period during the pandemic and then participated in focus group discussions and small group interviews. Focus group discussions and small group interviews were transcribed, and data were analyzed using a team-based, theme-analysis approach. Three primary domains emerged: benefits of school meal distribution, meal quality and appeal, and perceived healthfulness. Parents perceived school meals as beneficial to addressing food insecurity. However, they noted that meals were unappealing, high in added sugar, and unhealthy, which led to discarded meals and decreased participation in the school meal program. The transition to grab-and-go style meals was an effective strategy for providing food to families during pandemic school closures, and school meals remain an important resource for families experiencing food insecurity. However, negative parental perceptions of the appeal and nutritional content of school meals may have decreased school meal participation and increased food waste that could persist beyond the pandemic. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
12 pages, 270 KiB  
Article
Nutrient Content and Compliance with Sodium Standards in Elementary School Meals in the United States Pre- and Post-COVID-19
by Leah Elizabeth Chapman, Scott Richardson, Amanda A. Harb, Evan Fear, Tara P. Daly, Deborah A. Olarte, Meghan Hawley, Emelia Zukowski, Colin Schwartz, Meghan Maroney and Juliana F. W. Cohen
Nutrients 2022, 14(24), 5386; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14245386 - 19 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3531
Abstract
Various federal policies have weakened school meal nutrition standards in the United States since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, including temporary school meal nutrition waivers to promote post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery. This study used school menu and nutrient data [...] Read more.
Various federal policies have weakened school meal nutrition standards in the United States since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, including temporary school meal nutrition waivers to promote post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery. This study used school menu and nutrient data from a nationally representative sample of 128 elementary school districts to examine differences in nutrients (average calories, total fat, saturated fat, sodium, total sugar, and fiber) and alignment with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sodium targets in 2019 (pre-pandemic) and in 2022 (post-pandemic). Data were analyzed using analysis of variance accounting for repeated measures within school districts, adjusting for geographic region and urbanicity. Small differences in the nutrient content for both breakfast and lunch were observed between 2019 and 2022. Most weeks met USDA sodium Target 1 for breakfast (≥95% of weeks) and Target 1 (≥96% of weeks) and Target 1A for lunch (≥92% of weeks) in both 2019 and 2022, although compliance decreased slightly when condiments were included. Additionally, meals provided on average 57 g of total sugar. Overall, many meals are already in alignment with lower sodium targets. Simple strategies, such as offering lower sodium condiments, can further reduce sodium in school meals. The total sugar levels observed highlight that the USDA should consider limits on added sugars in school meals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
15 pages, 1126 KiB  
Article
Teachers’ Resources to Support School Lunch: Professional Development Is Warranted
by Deborah A. Olarte, Pamela A. Koch, Randi L. Wolf and Isobel R. Contento
Nutrients 2022, 14(21), 4596; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14214596 - 01 Nov 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2467
Abstract
In the United States, many children who come from low-income backgrounds and experience food insecurity do not take and eat school lunch, despite it being a nutritious meal. Teachers could play a role in encouraging students’ consumption of school lunch; however, teachers in [...] Read more.
In the United States, many children who come from low-income backgrounds and experience food insecurity do not take and eat school lunch, despite it being a nutritious meal. Teachers could play a role in encouraging students’ consumption of school lunch; however, teachers in America are traditionally uninvolved in the lunch period. The purpose of this research was to understand the resources kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) teachers need to encourage students to take and eat school lunch. Two data collection workshops and semi-structured follow-up interviews were conducted with K-12 teachers. The workshops and interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for salient themes. Ten teachers participated in the workshops and six teachers participated in the follow-up interviews. In general, teachers believe school meals are essential for students’ focus and behavior in the classroom. However, to encourage students to take and eat school lunch, teachers need support and resources. From the workshops and interviews, three themes emerged: (1) improvements in the food quality; (2) school community support; and (3) professional development. The data suggests professional development is the greatest resource teachers need, as professional development can enhance teachers’ motivation to advocate for better food quality and engage school community support. Greater teacher involvement in school lunch could lay the groundwork for future healthier generations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
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11 pages, 552 KiB  
Article
Systems Mapping of the New Zealand Free and Healthy School Lunch Programme: Perspectives from Lunch Providers
by Brittany Chote, David Rees, Boyd Swinburn, Pippa McKelvie-Sebileau, Rachael Glassey and David Tipene-Leach
Nutrients 2022, 14(20), 4336; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14204336 - 17 Oct 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2407
Abstract
As part of the COVID-19 economic recovery package, the Aotearoa New Zealand Government rolled out a universal free and healthy lunch programme to the 25% least advantaged schools nationwide. This study explored experiences of school lunch providers in the Hawke’s Bay region. The [...] Read more.
As part of the COVID-19 economic recovery package, the Aotearoa New Zealand Government rolled out a universal free and healthy lunch programme to the 25% least advantaged schools nationwide. This study explored experiences of school lunch providers in the Hawke’s Bay region. The aim was to create a systems map identifying points of intervention through which the lunch programme could be improved to meet the goal of reducing child food insecurity. Twelve lunch providers were interviewed to generate casual loop diagrams which were examined and integrated to form a single systems map. Seven themes arose during analysis: teacher support, principal support, nutrition guidelines and government support, supply chain, ingredient suppliers, student feedback and food waste. Teacher support was important for getting students to try new foods and eat the nutritious lunches. Principal support was a strong theme impacting opportunities for broader student engagement. This study employed systems science to highlight the importance of support from different stakeholders within the lunch programme to achieve the goal of reduced child food insecurity. Further work is needed to ensure the programme meets the wider goals of the government and community, and to determine the potential broader benefits of the programme. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
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13 pages, 837 KiB  
Article
Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine
by Juliana F. W. Cohen, Michele Polacsek, Christina E. Hecht, Ken Hecht, Margaret Read, Deborah A. Olarte, Anisha I. Patel, Marlene B. Schwartz, Lindsey Turner, Monica Zuercher, Wendi Gosliner and Lorrene D. Ritchie
Nutrients 2022, 14(19), 4031; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14194031 - 28 Sep 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 5809
Abstract
School meals play a major role in supporting children’s diets and food security, and policies for universal school meals (USM) have the potential to contribute to positive child health outcomes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools provided free school meals to all students in [...] Read more.
School meals play a major role in supporting children’s diets and food security, and policies for universal school meals (USM) have the potential to contribute to positive child health outcomes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools provided free school meals to all students in the United States, but this national USM policy ended in school year (SY) 2022–2023; however, a few states have adopted policies to continue USM statewide for SY 2022–2023. Research examining the challenges and strategies for successful continuation of USM is essential, along with studying pandemic-related challenges that are likely to persist in schools. Therefore, we conducted a study in Maine (with a USM policy) to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 and the concurrent implementation of USM, as well as examine differences in implementation by school characteristics, throughout the state. A total of n = 43 school food authorities (SFAs) throughout Maine completed surveys. SFAs reported multiple benefits of USM including increased school meal participation; reductions in the perceived stigma for students from lower-income households and their families; and no longer experiencing unpaid meal charges and debt. SFAs also experienced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly regarding costs. When considering future challenges, most respondents were concerned with obtaining income information from families, product and ingredient availability, and the costs/financial sustainability of the school meal programs. Overall, USM may have multiple important benefits for students and schools, and other states should consider implementation of a USM policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
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20 pages, 2597 KiB  
Article
Providing School Meals to All Students Free of Charge during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Challenges and Benefits Reported by School Foodservice Professionals in California
by Monica D. Zuercher, Juliana F. W. Cohen, Christina E. Hecht, Kenneth Hecht, Lorrene D. Ritchie and Wendi Gosliner
Nutrients 2022, 14(18), 3855; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14183855 - 17 Sep 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 5168
Abstract
Universal school meals (USM) have the potential to increase access to healthy food for millions of U.S. students. This study evaluated school food authorities’ (SFA) perspectives of federal USM in response to COVID-19 (school year (SY) 2021–22) and California’s upcoming USM policy in [...] Read more.
Universal school meals (USM) have the potential to increase access to healthy food for millions of U.S. students. This study evaluated school food authorities’ (SFA) perspectives of federal USM in response to COVID-19 (school year (SY) 2021–22) and California’s upcoming USM policy in the SY 2022–23. In February 2022, all SFAs in California (n = 1116) were invited to complete an online survey. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression examining differences by school demographic characteristics were used. Five hundred and eighty-one SFAs completed the survey; 63% of them first implemented USM during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reported benefits included increased student meal participation (79.2%) and reduced stigma (39.7%). Top challenges included staffing (76.9%) and meal packaging/solid waste (67.4%). Nearly all SFAs reported pandemic-related challenges procuring the necessary types (88.9%) and amounts of foods (85.9%), and non-food supplies/equipment (82.6%). Over 40% reported that federal reimbursements were insufficient to cover costs. SFAs with <40% FRPM-eligible students and/or higher student enrollment reported more current challenges and future concerns than those with ≥40% FRPMs and lower student enrollment. The top resources requested to implement CA’s USM included additional facilities/equipment (83.8%), communications/marketing (76.1%), increasing meal participation (71.5%), and financial management (61.5%). Most California SFAs reported that implementing federal USM had the intended effect of feeding more children. This study’s findings may be useful to the several other U.S. states implementing universal school meals in the SY 2022–23, and to other states or countries considering adopting a USM policy in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue School Meals and Children’s Dietary Behaviour)
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