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Lunchtime food and nutrient intakes of secondary-school pupils; a comparison of school lunches and packed lunches following the introduction of mandatory food-based standards for school lunch

Pearce, Jo, Wood, Lesley, Nelson, Michael
Public health nutrition 2013 v.16 no.6 pp. 1126-1131
ascorbic acid, energy intake, folic acid, food guides, iron, issues and policy, lunch, school lunch, secondary education, zinc, England
To compare the key differences between school lunches and packed lunches as eaten in eleven secondary schools in England, 21 months after the food-based standards for school lunch became mandatory, but before the introduction of nutrient-based standards. Data on 358 school lunches and 139 packed lunches were collected in May and June 2008 from pupils attending secondary schools in Sheffield, Manchester, Leicester City and Essex. Fieldwork was conducted over five consecutive school days at each school. Fieldworkers randomly selected five pupils taking a school lunch and five pupils bringing a packed lunch each day. All food and drink items chosen by pupils were weighed and recorded. Leftovers were also weighed. Eleven state-maintained, co-educational secondary schools from four local authorities in England. Four hundred and ninety-seven pupils aged 11–16 years. Pupils taking school lunches, on average, had significantly higher intakes of energy, protein, carbohydrate, NSP, vitamin C, folate, Fe and Zn than pupils bringing a packed lunch to school. Mean intakes of protein, fat and vitamin C from both types of lunch met the nutrient-based standards and school lunches also met standards for carbohydrate, NSP and energy. Nutrient intakes from school lunches were more favourable than those from packed lunches, but typically failed to meet nutrient-based standards for school food. A combination of continued improvements to school food, educating pupils to make healthier choices and policies to encourage pupils to eat at school or bring healthier packed lunches is needed.