Improving School Meals in the London Borough of Southwark: an evaluation of a healthy eating intervention
School meals have the potential to provide an important source of good nutrition for young people. However, published evidence shows that most children do not make healthy choices when offered food at school and this suggests that they may benefit from a health intervention to optimise their dietary intake. The aim of the present study was to evaluate an intervention undertaken to improve healthy food choices made by children eating at school. The food consumed by children in the school dining area was evaluated before and after the intervention by examining their trays at the start of the meal and weighing any leftovers. Mean energy, macronutrient and fruit and vegetable intake were determined and the differences between the two periods compared. Completed records were obtained from 180 children before and 198 after the intervention. A significant reduction in mean energy, protein, fat and carbohydrate intake was observed after the intervention while the children also ate significantly more fruit and vegetables (12.0 ± 10.4 vs 30.0 ± 30.5 g / day, P<0.05). However, in spite of these improvements, the mean intake of fat remained high (40 ± 9% of total energy) and the total amount of fruit and vegetables consumed remained low. The study showed that nutritional intake from school meals can be significantly improved by an intervention. Although the benefits observed were somewhat limited, the results suggest that further attempts to optimise school meals should be investigated.