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School food standards in the UK: implementation and evaluation

Adamson, Ashley, Spence, Suzanne, Reed, Lowri, Conway, Ruth, Palmer, Alison, Stewart, Eve, McBratney, Jennifer, Carter, Lynne, Beattie, Shirley, Nelson, Michael
Public health nutrition 2013 v.16 no.6 pp. 968-981
development policy, diet, funding, nutrient intake, nutritive value, planning, school children, school lunch, secondary education, socioeconomics, surveys, England, Scotland, Wales
To outline the evolution of school food standards and their implementation and evaluation in each of the four countries of the UK since 2000. Review of relevant policies, surveys and evaluations, including country-specific surveys and regional evaluations. UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Primary and secondary schools and schoolchildren. By September 2013 standards will have been introduced in all primary and secondary schools in the UK. Evaluations have varied in their scope and timing, relating to government forward planning, appropriate baselines and funding. Where standards have been implemented, the quality and nutritional value of food provided have improved. Emerging evidence shows improved overall diet and nutrient intake by school-aged children as a result. The re-introduction of school food standards in the UK has not been centrally coordinated, but by September 2013 will be compulsory across all four countries in the UK, except in England where academies are now exempt. Provision of improved school food has had a demonstrable impact on diet and nutrition beyond the school dining room and the school gate, benefiting children from all socio-economic groups. Improved school food and dining environments are associated with higher levels of school lunch take up. Implementation of school food standards requires investment. It is critical to policy development that the value of this investment is measured and protected using planned, appropriate, robust and timely evaluations. Where appropriate, evaluations should be carried out across government departments and between countries.