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Keywords:

  • children;
  • diet;
  • fruit;
  • school meals;
  • vegetables

How to cite this article Upton D. Upton P. & Taylor C. (2012) Fruit and vegetable intake of primary school children: a study of school meals. J Hum Nutr Diet.

Abstract

Background:  Despite an increasing focus on the nutritional content of school meals and initiatives such as the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, children are not meeting the recommended levels of fruit and vegetable consumption. The present study aimed to examine children’s fruit and vegetable consumption in 15 primary schools across the West Midlands region.

Methods:  A total of 1296 children, aged 4–11 years, were observed for five consecutive days and the consumption of all food items was measured using the weighed intake method. Differences in the mean intake of fruit, vegetables and foods high in fat and sugar between Key Stages 1 and 2 were determined.

Results:  Two-thirds of the children in the present study did not consume any fruit at lunchtime and only 3% of children consumed at least one portion as part of their school meal. The proportion of children consuming some quantity of vegetable at lunchtime was more than double that consuming fruit. Children in Key Stage 1 consumed significantly more vegetables on average than children in Key Stage 2 ( 0.05); however, no significant differences were found for the consumption of fruit.

Conclusions:  Despite the introduction of food-based standards for school meal provision; children are not consuming adequate portions of fruit and vegetables at lunchtime. The importance of strategies used by catering staff to promote the consumption of fruit and vegetables should be harnessed to encourage children to taste fruit and vegetables provided. Further research is recommended to increase the evidence base on strategies aiming to promote fruit and vegetable consumption in children.