The social, physical and temporal characteristics of primary school dining halls and their implications for children's eating behaviours

Moore, S.N., Murphy, S., Tapper, K. and Moore, L. (2010) The social, physical and temporal characteristics of primary school dining halls and their implications for children's eating behaviours. Health Education, 110(5), pp. 399-411. (doi:10.1108/09654281011068540)

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Purpose – Social, physical and temporal characteristics are known to influence the eating experience and the effectiveness of nutritional policies. As the school meal service features prominently in UK nutritional and health promotion policy, the paper's aim is to investigate the characteristics of the primary school dining context and their implications for eating behaviours. Design/methodology/approach – A case study of one local authority in Wales was conducted involving 11 primary schools stratified into socio-economic quartiles. Focussed observations were carried out over two to three lunchtimes per school to explore their social, physical and temporal characteristics. These were supplemented by semi-structured interviews with catering staff and midday supervisors. Findings – The dining halls had numerous generic attributes (e.g. accommodation, equipment, length of lunchtime, social actors). These interacted to have a direct, but not necessarily positive, bearing on food choice and consumption. Overcrowded, multi-purpose dining halls coupled with time pressures and dynamic social situations detracted from the eating experience and the ability of staff to encourage children to eat. Practical implications – Without addressing these underlying issues, school nutritional policy may only play a limited role in influencing what children eat. It is recommended that policy places a greater emphasis on factors such as the eating environment; the time available for eating; and the role of the midday supervisor. Originality/value – Previous studies of dining halls have generally been part of process evaluations of nutritional interventions. This study adds value by conducting a focussed investigation into the relationship between the dining hall environment and eating behaviours.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Moore, Professor Laurence
Authors: Moore, S.N., Murphy, S., Tapper, K., and Moore, L.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Journal Name:Health Education

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