Changes in the content of children's school lunches across the school week Academic Article uri icon


  • ISSUE ADDRESSED:the school setting is an important context for the development of children's eating behaviours. As most Australian children (86%) bring their lunch from home, knowledge of what parents provide in home-prepared school lunches can inform efforts to improve their nutritional quality. This study investigated the content of children's home-prepared school lunches, considered variation across the school week, and explored gender and grade level differences. METHODS:this observational analysis of children's home-prepared school lunches was conducted in children attending the first three years of school at one of five northern Melbourne metropolitan schools. One hundred and seventy parents (response rate 12%) gave consent for their child's lunch to be audited up to five times (minimum of three) across a one-month period. The food and beverage items of students' school lunches were audited using the School Food Checklist. RESULTS:the average home-prepared school lunch contained a sandwich, a piece of fruit and one and a half servings of extras (low nutritional value and/or high in added fat, salt or sugar). Servings of bread declined (Wilks' Λ=0.82, p=0.01) from Monday to Friday and there were more servings of extras (Wilks' Λ=0.79, p<0.01) on Monday than Wednesday. Younger children's lunches contained fewer servings of fruit (F(2,71.93)=4.84, p=0.03), vegetables (F(2,78.97)=3.86, p<0.05) and bread (F(2,140)=4.36, p=0.02) than those of older children. Girls' lunches contained significantly more vegetables than boys' lunches, (t(154.51)=-2.21, p=0.03). CONCLUSIONS:lunches were high in extras and low in servings of vegetables and other healthy snacks with minor variations in the quantity of bread and extras across the school week.

publication date

  • 2010