Think they are getting their 5 a day at school? Think again.

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Jan 14, 01:29 PM in and . No comments.

My little boy has school dinners every day. I never had school dinners, growing up in Brisbane where I took a packed lunch to school and occasionally had money for the “tuck shop”. I can’t say I’m 100% happy with the school dinners my son has, but we have decided he will stick on them for a few months.

Each day when I pick my son up from the bus stop, I ask him how his day was and what he had for lunch. It’s been playing on my mind for some time now that he never mentions that he has any fruit at school. He tends to have a baguette or wrap and a small cake and drink. The other day, I asked him why he doesn’t have any fruit at school and was told that there was no fruit on offer. Now I don’t know if that’s so or not, (8 year old faced with a small cake or fruit is a difficult one), but it certainly made me aware that I can’t rely on school dinners to be providing my own son’s fruit and vegetables for the day.

That has been even more cemented in my mind since reading a study in the December edition of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. In this study, researchers looked at a snapshot of the fruit and vegetable intake of primary school children in school meals in a sample of 15 schools across the West Midlands region.
They observed 1296 children, (aged 4-11 years), during 5 consecutive days and looked at their consumption of fruit and vegetables at school in that week.

What they found was pretty scary.

Two thirds of the children did not consume any fruit at lunchtime and only 3% consumed at least one portion as part of their school meal. Vegetables fared better but intake was better in the younger groups than in older groups.

The study concluded that for this snapshot and a “week in the life of” children in one area of Britain, children were not consuming adequate portions of fruit or vegetables at lunchtime. Sometimes this was down to choice and sometimes due to lack of availability.

I think the take home message for those who use school dinners to feed their kids is to not rely on an ideal that they are sitting down to a hearty meat and 3 veg dish with fruit available for the choosing. There is a lot more to choosing school dinners including– social aspects, teaching kids about choice and money, convenience and family habit but as far as relying on this to be the main stay of the day, I’d think again. By all means, continue school dinners if it suits you but make sure your kids are getting those fruit and vegetables at home – with breakfast, evening meal or as an afternoon snack.


Fruit and vegetable intake of primary school children: a study of school meals. D. Upton, P. Upton and C. Taylor. Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. December 2012

Tags: 5 A Day., Fruit, School Dinners, Vegetables

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


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