A qualitative study exploring the perceptions of children, parents and school staff towards the development and implementation of school lunch provision within primary schools in the Netherlands

Frédérique C. Rongen, Coosje Dijkstra*, Tobie H. Hupkens, Monique H. Vingerhoeds, Jacob C. Seidell, Ellen van Kleef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: There is no tradition of serving school lunches in primary schools in the Netherlands. Most children tend to bring their own packed lunch, however these are often nutritionally suboptimal. While school lunch provision can aid healthy eating behavior amongst children, its introduction would constitute a profound change for children, parents and school staff. Therefore, this qualitative study aims to explore children’s, parents and school staffs’ perceptions of both the current lunch situation and the implementation of school lunch provision within primary schools in the Netherlands. Methods: In this qualitative study we conducted nine interviews with school principals, 98 interviews with children, and held six focus groups with teachers and six with parents at primary schools in two Dutch cities. The data was analysed via iterative coding. Results: The results showed that most children and parents are satisfied with the current lunch situation, although existing school food policies are not always put in place. Most teachers felt that children had insufficient time to consume their lunch in the current situation. The children were generally positive about the idea of a school lunch, and stressed that it was important to have the ability to choose. While both parents and school staff saw school lunch provision as an opportunity to educate families about healthy food options, they also expressed concern about who would be responsible, as well as the financial and organizational implications of its introduction. Conclusions: Perceptions of children, parents and school staff about a school provided lunch are mixed. A complex intervention such as a new school lunch program is difficult to envisage for all parties involved and more research is needed regarding the effects, organization, logistics and the costs of school lunch provision in the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2367
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Healthy eating
  • Organized school lunch
  • Primary school
  • School lunch
  • School meal
  • School-provided lunch

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