To assess lunchtime provision of food and drink in English primary schools and to assess both choices and consumption of food and drink by pupils having school lunches. These findings were compared with similar data collected in 2005.
Cross-sectional data collected between February and April 2009. In each school, food and drink provision, including portion weights and number of portions of each item served at lunchtime, were recorded over five consecutive days. Caterers provided school lunchtime menus and recipes.
A random selection of 6696 pupils having school lunches in a nationally representative sample of 136 primary schools in England.
Compared with 2005, schools in 2009 provided significantly more fruit, fruit-based desserts, vegetables and salad, water and fruit juice, and less ketchup, sauces and gravy, starchy foods cooked in fat, snacks and confectionery (P < 0·01). Pupils were also making healthier choices, choosing an average of 2·2 portions of fruit and vegetables from their ‘five a day’, but about one-third to two-fifths of these were wasted.
Lunchtime food provision and consumption in primary schools have improved substantially since 2005, following the introduction of new standards for school food in 2008. However, improvements still need to be made to increase the Fe and Zn content and to decrease the Na content of recipes, and in encouraging pupils to eat more of the fruits and vegetables taken at lunchtime.
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