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The Big Eat In follow-up study

Canteen
Researchers: Andy MacGregor
Published: November 2011

Aim

We aimed to assess what made lunchtime stay-on-site policies successful and sustainable in secondary schools in Glasgow.

This project followed our earlier evaluation of the Big Eat In lunchtime stay-on-site intervention and is part of a wider project to understand what role schools can play in tackling child obesity and unhealthy eating.

Findings

  • Eating school lunches within the school canteen has many benefits for pupils, including:
    • Healthy eating
    • Increased safety
    • Easing the transition from primary to secondary school
    • Encouraging good relationships between staff and pupils
    • Helping pupils foster good relations with each other
  • School staff supported the lunchtime stay-on-site policies, recognising a positive impact on eating habits, social development and personal safety.
  • More work needs to be done to help pupils accept lunchtime stay-on-site policies. This was linked to a need to generate culture change and transform attitudes to healthy eating more generally.
  • Schools should encourage rather than enforce lunchtime stay-on-site policies.
  • Encouragement rather than enforcement models of implementation, unsurprisingly, appear to be the most popular with school pupils. Students reasoned that enforcement models were counterproductive as they made it more attractive for them to attempt to eat and spend lunchtime offsite.
  • Activities such as sport, dance and library activities encouraged pupils to stay on school grounds and use their canteen. However, increased time constraints on staff means that if lunchtime activities are to be meaningfully sustained, consideration should be given to the financing and staffing of such activities.

Methodology

We interviewed school staff and conducted focus groups with pupils in four Glasgow secondary schools: two had been involved in the Big Eat In pilot and two had recently established their own stay-on-site policies.

Read a short briefing paper

Read the full report