Evaluation of school lunch programme at a low-decile primary school in South Auckland : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Background: Optimal childhood nutrition is crucial as children experience rapid
changes in physical, cognitive and behavioural development. However, increasing
number of children is experiencing some form of malnutrition, either over- or undernutrition.
Diet inadequacies during school hours need to be addressed as food choices
made during lunchtime are significant contributors to their overall diet. Minimal
research has been conducted in New Zealand to assess what children are consuming at
schools and whether a school lunch programme will be beneficial in improving
nutrition and school outcomes.
Aim: To assess impacts of Feed the Need school lunch programme on children’s dietary
intakes, attendance and behaviours during school hours, pre-, during and postprogramme.
Methods: Primary school children aged 10-11 years (n=77) from a low-decile school in
South Auckland completed daily food records during school hours, in pre-, during and
post- Feed the Need timeframes. Nutritional breakdown of food records was used to
examine children’s micro- and macro- nutrients intakes and most commonly consumed
food items, across the timeframes. Three recipes from the programme were also
analysed to determine their contribution to one-third of a child’s daily requirements.
Information for attendance and behaviours were obtained from the school records.
Children’s perception of the programme was examined through five Likert scale items,
whereas focus group was conducted with class teachers.
Results: Feed the Need meals were adequate in meeting one-third of children’s
protein, folate, vitamin A, iron and zinc requirements, based on average contribution
of the three meals within a week. During the programme, significant higher intakes of
the same nutrients were observed (p<0.05). Energy level was inadequate whereas
sodium content was elevated in these meals. Confectionery and sweet drinks were
most commonly consumed during school hours. Attendance and behaviour conducts
remained unaffected by the programme. However it was very well received by the
children and teachers.
Conclusion: The programme, upon modifications and improvement of recipes, can be a useful instrument to prevent nutrient deficiencies in childhood. Longitudinal studies are needed to examine long term benefits of adequate childhood nutrition on health and educational outcomes.
Key words: school lunch programme, Feed the Need, childhood nutrition