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Meeting school food standards – students’ food choice and free school meals

Ensaff, Hannah, Russell, Jean, Barker, Margo E
Public health nutrition 2013 v.16 no.12 pp. 2162-2168
desserts, food and nutrition programs, food choices, pizza, secondary education, students
To examine students’ school food choice in relation to school food standards and entitlement to free school meals (FSM). Cross-sectional analysis of students’ school food choices. Two large secondary schools in Yorkshire, England. Students (n 2660) aged 11–18 years. Sandwiches and pizza were the most popular main food items: 40·4 % and 31·2 %, respectively, in School A; 48·3 % and 27·3 %, respectively, in School B. More nutritionally valuable ‘dishes of the day’ accounted for 8·7 % and 8·3 % of main foods for School A and School B, respectively. FSM students were more likely (P < 0·0 0 1) to choose main foods (School A: FSM 87·04 %, non-FSM 70·28 %; School B: FSM 75·43 %, non-FSM 56·13 %). Dishes of the day were chosen on a significantly greater (P < 0·0 0 1) percentage of days by FSM v. non-FSM students (School A: FSM 15·67 %, non-FSM 7·11 %; School B: FSM 19·42 %, non-FSM 5·17 %). Despite the availability of nutritionally valuable dishes of the day, the most popular food items were sandwiches, pizza and desserts. FSM students were more likely to choose the more nutritionally valuable dish of the day. School food standards should be reassessed in light of students’ preferences.