The effectiveness of current healthy eating initiatives in primary schools.
The study set out to establish the effectiveness of current healthy eating initiatives in primary schools.In particular, the study aimed to evaluate,
The perceptions of parents in regards to healthy eating initiatives currently being implemented at their child’s schools.
The influence that parents have over their children’s food choices.
The attitudes and beliefs of teachers in regards to healthy eating education.
The influence income and socio economic factors have on children’s eating habits.
The research was conducted through the use of interviews with teachers and kitchen staff within two schools and questionnaires to parents in order to collect the relevant information in order to answer the question of the study.
The results concluded that healthy eating initiatives were successful in primary schools but in order for this to happen there needed to be support from both parents and the schools.
It was also evident that the school which received a lot of support from the parents had more successful healthy eating initiatives than the school where support from parents and teachers was not so strong. The results also concluded that socio economic factors will influence the way in which children consume healthy foods and also parents will have a huge influence on children’s foods choices and their perceptions of healthy foods.
Recommendations for further research included a longitudinal study at the two schools in order to experience first hand any changes or influences in regards to healthy eating initiatives and perceptions of healthy foods. Also it was suggested that a bigger sample of teachers and parents could be interviewed in a wider variety of schools in order to establish any other contributing factors to the success of healthy eating initiatives in primary schools.
Within this dissertation research will be conducted into the effectiveness of healthy eating initiatives in primary schools. Two schools will be chosen and these two schools will be in two different socio economic areas. This is to see whether socio economic backgrounds will affect the effectiveness of these healthy eating initiatives.
The reason behind this choice of topic is the amount of messages being portrayed through the media and other means of communication regarding the importance of healthy eating. It was interesting to see that with all these messages being given to parents, their children and schools are they actually effective.
The aims of the study were:
To identify the perceptions of parents in regards to healthy eating initiatives currently being implemented at their child’s schools.
The influence that parents have over their children’s food choices.
The attitudes and believes of teachers in regards to healthy eating education.
The influence income and socio economic factors have on children’s eating habits.
In order to complete the research process parents were handed questionnaires and teachers and kitchen staff of both schools will be interviewed. These three groups of will identify and answer the topic and aims of the study. Their answers and responses will then be critically analysed in a results and discussion section. Literature will then be used in order to support findings and patterns that may emerge from the results.
The reason behind this particular choice of topic was to establish if messages being portrayed are actually successful and to see if parents and teachers, who are two of the most important influences in a child’s life, are responsibly achieving to educate children on the importance of healthy eating.
Jamie Oliver is TV chef who felt it important that children were receiving healthy and nutritious meals. He believed that by implementing this in schools then even if children were not receiving healthy meals at home, they would be having at least one in school. He then went on to pledge many campaigns towards the government. One of these included the ‘Feed Me Better’ campaign. This included asking the government to increase the amount of money spent on school meals from 37p per meal to 50p per meal. He believed that this small but significant increase would ensure that children would be receiving better quality and healthier meals.
These campaigns were first established by Jamie Oliver because of the increasing worry of childhood obesity. More and more people and young children are becoming over weight and obese and Jamie Oliver believed that this had to be addressed. The way in which he believed he could achieve this was by targeting children while in school through the support of teachers and parents. www.jamieoliver.com/foundation
This provided the foundation of carrying out this research project and to find out if there are any other contributing factors that may not ensure that these benefit children.
This dissertation will look at relevant research into this specific area including factors that contribute to children’s eating habits, the media influence on children’s eating habits, the importance of healthy eating in general, including the risk of obesity and other health problems and current healthy eating programmes.
A conclusion will then reflect upon how successful the research project was in identifying the effectiveness of healthy eating initiatives in primary schools.
The next chapter will discuss the literature related to the dissertation topic.
Within this literature review all aspects of healthy eating programmes currently being used in school today will be reviewed. The importance of healthy eating, childhood obesity, factors that influence children’s eating habits, parent’s influences and current healthy eating programmes will be discussed.
A literature review is the process used to review current knowledge, analyze and evaluate a certain topic. It is important to include this into a dissertation in order to use literature to support or dispute findings. (Garrard, 2010)
With healthy eating being promoted in school and the government placing great emphasis on the importance of it was an issue that required further research.
2.1 Importance of Healthy eating
In today’s society there are messages suggesting that a healthy diet is important for our bodies to be healthy.
Walker (2005) describes a healthy diet as giving our body the correct nutrients and food on a regular basis that it needs in order to stay healthy.
Although Walker (2005) describes the importance of this there are many health implications that can occur if you do not undertake a healthy, balanced diet or if you consume more than the recommended calorie intake. 2,000 calories for a woman and 2,500 calories for a man is described by Gregson, (2000)
Scott, (1988) describes a healthy diet as ensuring that a person or child consumes certain foods that will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is also described that to ensure that this happens a healthy balanced diet must include various nutrients obtained from carbohydrates, minerals, fats, proteins and vitamins. If a child lacks these nutrients within their diet then implications may occur, Gregson, (2000) describes protein deficiency and energy deficiency as the two main types of malnutrition. This can occur when your body is lacking the correct amount of protein and carbohydrates it needs in order to function effectively.
Smith and Haddard, (2000), discuss the changes in your body and the possible health implications if your body was malnourished. These included symptoms such as loss of weight and appetite, listlessness and apathy, gross water retention, a swollen abdomen and changes to hair and skin. Although their may be other symptoms, these are thought to be the most common.
Healthy eating has many benefits. Stanton, (2007), states that people will have higher energy levels, skin, teeth, bones and hair will become stronger and healthier, the risk of heart problems and cancer is decreased when undertaking a healthy, balanced diet. It is also important that exercise introduced. Exercise can help people to feel more energised and healthy, keep weight stable, improve blood pressure and circulation within the body and help strengthen bones and muscles.(Buckworth and Dishman, 2002)
Be Active, Be Healthy, (2009), was a framework designed to encourage people to introduce exercise into their daily routine. This coincided with the Governments plans for over 2 million people to become more active leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Initiatives like these ensure that people introduce a healthy lifestyle into their daily routine.
2.2 Childhood Obesity
Obesity is described by Robertson, (2007) as excess fat in ones body that can cause major health implications and can cut life short if not treated. This can be measured using a Body Mass Index Chart that will compare the weight of some one and compare this to their height.
Argentieri, et al, (2004), discussed the impact that television has on childhood obesity. He discusses the amount of hours children spend watching television and what they do during this time. He believes that some children may eat sweets and other sugary snacks which only add to the damage that children are doing to their health. He does however, emphasise that not all children who watch television will become or are obese, but it can lead to this if it is done in excess. In 1995 25% of children were overweight or obese was 25 percent. This has risen to 35 percent (The Government Office for Science, 2007) This statistic shows that childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate.
Martin and Oakley, (2007), support Argentieri, (2004) as they believe that children, who take part in more physical activities and take part in extra curricular activities, tend to eat more fruit and vegetables. This is because they will be encouraged to eat more nutritious foods and they will not have many opportunities to sit in front of the television snacking on sugary snacks.
The Government Office for Science, (2007), discusses the way in which childhood obesity has increased in the past ten years as a result of children eating too much or not participating in physical activities. They also believe that the main reason for high childhood obesity statistics relates to what meals they are receiving at home. This supports both Martin and Oakley, (2007) and Argentieri, (2004).
Waters et al, (2010) believe that there are many reasons why childhood obesity is increasing and there are also many ways in which we can prevent this with the help of healthy eating programmes within schools. ‘ ….such as healthy eating programmes, more opportunities for children to participate in extra curricular activities, health education on the importance of healthy eating and healthy eating rewards are all ways in which we can lower the percentage over weight and obese children in today’s society.’ (Waters et al, 2010, p.g 31) In other European countries such as France and Germany they have their own healthy eating initiatives and ways of trying to prevent childhood obesity. Children in these countries eat things such as brioche, and nutritious biscuits for snacks both in school and then at home. They will have this combined with at least one, healthy, nutritious meal. This will usually be combined with a glass of milk. Elmadfa, (2005)
Although this shows that other European countries are positive in promoting and undertaking healthy eating, it is suggested that European eating habits are far from perfect. It is suggested, again, by Elmadfa, (2005) that children in other European countries, such as The Czech Republic and Poland, have less availability to fast foods and they are not as widely advertised. Therefore children are receiving a regular, cooked meal either at a restaurant or at home. Elmadfa, (2005) suggests that although there is still a problem with obesity in these European countries, the problem in greater in the U.K.
Gibson, S, (1997), supports this and believes children who eat a healthy diet and take part in extra curricular activities are less likely to be obese or over weight. He also expresses that the less exercise children undertake, the higher the chance they will be obese or over weight. In 2009 , the proportion of boys who spent 4 or more hours undertaking activities was 35%, of those who were not over weight or obese 47% and of those who classed as over weight or obese. For girls a comparable pattern was found. 37% were not overweight or obese and 51% were.
2.3 Factors that can influence children’s eating habits.
Although schools and healthy eating programmes strive to ensure that programmes are effective within early years settings, (The World Health Organisation, 1997) emphasise the fact that this may not always be effective. They believe that children are confronted with many conflicting messages and advertising within today’s society. Jones and Tilford, (2001), state that children are being influenced by the media through means such as television, internet, magazines, etc. They believe that they can affect the food choices children make.
Bryant and Oliver, (2009) support this theory. They believe that healthy eating programmes are only effective if they are promoted correctly because of the food choices children are offered in today’s society.
(Gregory 2003), contradicts both Jones and Tilford, (2001), and Bryant and Oliver, (2009) and states that the media allow companies to get healthy eating and physical activity messages out to large groups of people and encourage healthy eating.
(Gregory, 2003), believes that the media can help promote healthy eating programmes and make children aware of how healthy eating programmes can improve their lifestyle.
Children can also be influenced by peers, parents or siblings when it comes to food choices and healthy eating. Seaman et al (1997) discuss that children’s eating habits are influenced by their parents. This was to be case of children aged five to eight years. Therefore, if schools are implementing healthy eating programmes that are effective within schools, the same may not be being applied at home. It is important that parents are supportive of these programmes and encourage children’s healthy eating habits. Edelstein and Sharlin, (2009) state the importance of this and believe that without parent support these healthy eating programmes cannot be as effective as they would be with support from parent or guardians.
Children’s healthy eating habits will also be affected by the environment around them. Hoerr, (2006) states that parents who allow their children to choose which foods they consume, had more conflict at the dinner table than those who chose food for the family as a whole. Hoerr, (2006), also believes that the reason for children making their own food choices was because of busy, working parents who did not have the time to plan a healthy and nutritional meal.
Finance can also affect children’s eating habits. Klump et al, (2002), believe if a child is from a deprived background finically, then they may not be receiving the correct healthy, balanced meal that they require. Sibbel, (2008), suggests this can lead to the child having health problems. Examples of this would be the child becoming malnourished, becoming more prone to illnesses, vitamin c deficiencies as well as other health problems. (www.nhsdirect.co.uk)
Gregory et al, (1995) conducted research that also suggested that children who were from poorer socio-economic backgrounds tend to have a poorer diet compared to them of a middle class background. This included children eating foods that were more convenient and cheaper regardless of their nutritional value. Parents from the lower socio economic area believed that they couldn’t afford to ensure that their children were eating healthily it was important to ensure that they were fed. The study conducted by Gregory et al, (1995) concluded that the reason behind this was finance and parents having to provide the foods they could afford for their children regardless of how healthy and nutritious they were.
Miller and Korenman (1994) conducted a similar study and concluded similar results. Children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds had a poorer diet because parents couldn’t afford to supply healthy meals for their children. The study also concluded that because of this factor these children also suffered health problems. Problems such as malnourishment, diabetes and lack of vitamin c and d were discussed as health issues children experienced. Children’s behaviour was also discussed as a factor of a poor diet.
Tassoni, (2007), supports both Klump and Sibbel, (2008), by stating that if a child has a poor diet within a home environment they will experience health problems and their behaviour will deteriorate and can prove problematic for parents and early year’s workers.
However, McEvoy, (2004), believes that before a diet, the child’s underlying problems with behaviour need to be established and dealt with first. Therefore a child’s diet may contribute to the way in which a particular child behaves but it is not the root cause.
It is important that children have opportunities to sit as a family when eating meals. Tassoni, (2006), discusses the importance of this as it can help to develop many skills such as social development, speaking and listening skills, fine motor skills development.
2.4 Parents influence on children’s healthy eating choices.
It is important that parents set a good example when it comes to healthy eating. This is because children will be influenced by what foods their parents eat and their food choices.
James, et al, (2006) carried out a study that found that there was a significant relationship between parents knowing the impact that fatty food has on a child’s diet, and them purchasing healthy foods for them and their children.
The study also concluded that there was a relationship between children being influenced by advertising in the media and demanding sugary food at the supermarket. This then lead to the parents purchasing sugary foods for their children. The study states that because parents were aware that fatty and sugary foods were no good for their children, this resulted in them purchasing more healthy foods for the family as a whole.
Arredondo, et al, (2007) believes that the influences that a child receives at home will have an effect on their eating habits. This may include what they see their parents or siblings eat, their parents attitudes to foods and the food choices the child makes themselves.
It is essential that in order for healthy eating programmes to be effective, parents supply healthy and nutritious foods to children at home. Proctor, (2003), believes that if children are receiving healthy meals at school and junk foods at home, the healthy eating programmes are not as effective as they can potentially be. Examples of healthy and nutritious foods are defined by Goldstein and Goldstein, (2010) including fresh fruit and vegetables, red meat, milk and yogurts. Junk or unhealthy foods are also described. These include foods high in fat, fried foods such as fried chicken and chocolate and high in sugar sweets. Shield and Mullin, (2002), disagrees with Proctor, (2003) and believe that if you want your family to eat together less emphasis need to be put on healthy eating.
They believe that if children are receiving at least one, healthy meal then they can eat other foods at tea times. This includes foods such as chips and pizza.
Shield and Mullin, (2002), also discuss that although it is important that children have a healthy balanced meal whether in school or at home, there are financial factors that can affect this. Some parents may not be able to afford to take into consideration what foods may be most healthy and nutritious, but what foods have the lowest cost. In some cases parents may purchase healthy foods but only because they are not costly not because they want their family to consume healthy foods. (Barrett, 1997) Fry and Finley, (2005), found this to be a true reflection on today’s society. They concluded that it was cheaper and more practical to buy a regular diet because it was much more expensive to provide a health diet when shopping for the foods.
Bower and Ferguson, (2008) disputes this by explaining that as long as a child receives a healthy balanced diet, i.e, the correct amount of foods from each food group including carbohydrates, minerals, fats, proteins and vitamins, then they do have a healthy diet. Tassoni, P, (2006) supported this by discussing as long as schools provided children with this facility during meal times then they would receive a healthy diet regardless of what their parents could afford to supply them at home.
Piaget, (1896 -1990) was a theorist who believed that children learn best from first hand experiences. He also believed that children’s learning was influenced by this. This is why is important that parents give children these opportunities when it comes to healthy eating. (Von Cramm and Brauner, 2004)
Von Cramm and Brauner, (2004), also believed that it was important to encourage children to be involved in their food choices. An example of this is allowing children to help cook and measure ingredients. This would also help develop their fine motor skills and mathematical development.
Lev Vygotsky, (1896, 1934) also believed in the importance of children gaining first hand experience and working alongside adults. He called this theory scaffolding. This supports Piaget’s theory as children can work along side adults when cooking to help understand the importance of healthy eating.
2.5 Current Healthy Eating Programmes.
Jamie Oliver is a famous TV chef who has cooked meals for the most famous people. It was during this time that he acknowledged that some children within the UK were not consuming the correct diet. He believed that they way to attack this was through schools. He devised a programme that looked at the importance of children eating healthy school meals. He felt that if children were not receiving a healthy meal at home then it was important that they at least received one in school. (www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns)
The Welsh assembly government has also ensured that 50% of primary schools within Wales are now taking part in the free breakfast initiative (WAG, 2004). This supports Jamie Oliver’s school dinner project in ensuring that all children receive the correct healthy and nutritious school meals they need. (Welsh Local Government Association)
It is also important that healthy eating programmes are encouraged by the school and children are given support on how to choose healthy and nutritious meals. Rodrigo and Aranceta, (2001) suggest that to support healthy eating programmes based in schools, children should receive education in order for them to make healthy food choices and to understand the importance of healthy eating programmes.
As well as these healthy eating programmes, school meals are important in supplying children with the correct healthy and nutritious meals they are entitled to. Nelson et al, (2007) believes that this is important for children and those who receive free school meals. This is because for most children, if they do not attend the breakfast clubs, they may be going without breakfast at all. In some cases it may be the only nutritious meal that they receive throughout the day. (Seaman et al, 1997)
Cooke, (2007) explains that schools meals were first introduced in order for children to achieve higher in their education. It was believed that if children received a balanced meal then they would do better academically.
Tikkanen, (2008) conducted a study to investigate if there was a relationship between what children ate and their behaviour in school. The study concluded that if a child received a healthy meal within a school setting then their attitude to learning was positive. Therefore this resulted in their behaviour within the classroom being positive. The study also concluded that children who didn’t receive a healthy meal in school had a more negative attitude towards learning. This then resulted in their behaviour within a classroom environment becoming inappropriate. Children showed signs of low concentration and attention when not receiving a healthy school meal.
Although it is evident that school meals are beneficial within the education system today, The World Health Organisation, (1997) believe that in some cases school meals are not complying with the Food Standards Agencies’ guidelines. Meggit, (2001) supports this by explaining that some of the foods that children are receiving within the education setting, are not nutritious and do not count towards a healthy, balanced meal. Although there may be concerns about children’s meals within education settings, there are programmes out there to improve this. There are many healthy eating school initiatives that encourage children to eat at least one healthy meal a day. These include free fruit schemes, breakfast clubs, healthy dinner initiatives, milk subscriptions and health education.
Watson and Marr, (2003) believe that breakfast clubs not only allow children to receive a healthy breakfast but can also have benefits for children with problems such as ADHD. They believe that these clubs can help children who are from areas of social deprivation, as they gave them opportunities to improve social skills and receive a healthy, balanced breakfast.
3:0 – Research Questions
By carrying out the literature review based on the research question, the following questions emerged.
How much of an influence do parents have on their children’s eating habits
Does a child’s diet affect their behaviour and achievement in school
In order for healthy eating initiatives to be successful, does there need to be support from both parents and teachers
Does a socio – economic background effect the way children perceive healthy foods
Does the socio – economic background of the school affect the way in which healthy eating initiatives are implemented
Methodology is described as ‘… the principle and procedures of a particular enquiry and to establish the methods to be used.” (Taylor, 2002, p.g 31) (Cited in Green) It is important that all research has a methodology in order for it to be relevant and to inform readers of the proposal. The proposal is a guide on how you carry out the experiment or research and the methodology is the most important part of this. (Mackey, 2009)
This chapter will address and discuss the methods used to answer the previous questions. The review of the effectiveness of some questions and methods used will be evaluated. Ethical issues as well as validity will also be discussed as well as the reasons behind the choices of school used, healthy eating initiatives and teachers.
The research was carried out in one school in the Caerphilly area and another in the Cardiff area. Both schools were primary schools with an age range of children from three to eleven. The reason behind these choices was to see if factors such as the different boroughs healthy eating initiatives affected children’s food choices, if the socio – economic background affects children’s food choices and how parents from socio – economic backgrounds can influence children’s eating habits.
Also it was important to research how long these healthy eating initiatives had been in place as this would have an effect on their success. Both schools had been implementing healthy eating initiatives for nearly three years.
The two schools in two different areas were chosen to evaluate similarities and differences in their socio – economic background and to see if this had an impact upon children’s healthy eating habits and if the healthy eating initiatives are effective.
The school in the Cardiff area is attended by pupils who come from wealthy backgrounds where parents have highly paid jobs. The research conducted into choosing the schools found that the type of jobs that the parents had were managerial and professional.
The research into the employment of the parents concluded that over 30% of parents attended university and gained a degree in order for them to gain their current job. The majority of parents within the school were all in highly paid employment. All the houses surrounding the school were detached houses.
This research into the two areas concluded that they both had different socio-economic backgrounds.
Both schools are large in size and approximately two hundred children attend each school. The school situated in the Caerphilly area has infant and junior class together in one block. All classrooms and other facilities are situated in one building. The school situated in the Cardiff area is an old building where all infant classes are situated. The junior classes are distributed across the school yard in separate buildings. Both schools are situated on quiet streets where only children resident within the area attend and both schools offer free school meals although one benefits from this scheme more than the other.
In the school in the Caerphilly area approximately 56% of children receive free school meals compared to that of the school in the Cardiff area where only 26% children receive free school meals.
This is a significant difference where the school situated in the Caerphilly area has double the amount of children on free school meals compared to the Cardiff area.
To also help answer the research question the participants were teachers within the schools, kitchen staff and parents. These people were also chosen because they have the biggest influence on children’s healthy food choices and they are the people present when children eat.
Teachers were interviewed on their perception of healthy eating initiatives and the change in behaviour since these initiatives have been in place. They were also questioned on whether they believed that healthy eating lessons should be implemented.
Kitchen staff were interviewed using structured interviews as there was only certain information that needed to be achieved from these participants. These interviews took five minutes to complete as there were not many questions that needed to be asked. Kitchen staff were asked questions such as what food choices children chose, what foods they found that were most popular and if they felt that the healthy eating initiatives were affective.
Parents were given questionnaires which included questions such as what foods do your children eat at homeAre you aware of what foods your children are offered at their school?
3.3 – Research Tools
To conduct the research two types of methods were used. Interviews and questionnaires and structured interviews with kitchen staff. The two methods were used because it was felt that these were the methods that could obtain the information needed to complete the study.
Interviews are used to gain information that cannot be directly observed and can allow participants to give any additional information that they feel that the interviewer would find relevant and vice versa. (Breakwell 2006)
Semi structured interviews were chosen as the method of the interviews. This type of interview allows the interviewer and participant to talk freely and openly and they allow for focused, two way communication. This kind of interviewing method allows the interviewer and participant to also discuss issues and to develop any questions that may have only arisen as a response to a previous question.(Cousin, 2008)
This was an appropriate method to use wanted to gain as much information from the teachers as possible to give them the opportunity to include any information that they would be valuable to the research.
Both questioning methods contained both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative research explores attitudes and behaviour through methods such as focus groups and interviews. People may wish to not be part of this type of research as it does entail them discussing their experiences or behaviours, but this type of research does mean that contact with these people does last longer than others. Quantitative research generates statistics through methods such as structured interviews and questionnaires. More people are more willing to participate in this type of research but contact with research participants tends to be a lot shorter than the contact with people participating in qualitative research. (Michael 2008)
Although both types of methods are used, Qualitative data are the most used throughout the research as they are able to give a range of opinions and answers from the participants and it also allows the participant to express feelings and to give answers where they are not restricted. Participants are also encouraged to develop answers by adding any more information that they feel is required. (Miles and Hubeman, 1999)
If mostly quantitative data was used during the research then responses may have been limited because it would not normally allow the respondent to develop their answer or add any additional information that they felt was necessary to the research. This was the reason behind using mostly qualitative data as participants were able to develop their answers to the questions they were asked, therefore giving me more information to analyse. (Blaikie, 2003)
Teachers were interviewed individually. The interviews were ten minutes long and were conducted through brake and lunch times. Seven teachers were interviewed from each school. They had all been teaching at each school for longer than three years so were present at the schools before the healthy eating initiatives were implemented. This was important as they were able to give details of their experiences before the initiatives were implemented as well.
All the teachers interviewed had been working with the same classes since they started at the school. Some of the teachers had previously worked with different age groups but at different schools.
Within the school from the Caerphilly Area there were a total of seven teachers currently employed by the school all of whom had their own class of children. These ranged from the nursery class all the way to year six.
Within the school from the Cardiff Area there were also seven teachers in total at the school, again ranging from the nursery class to year six.
It was important that all the teachers were interviewed from both the infants and juniors to give a fair representation of the teacher’s views in both the schools. The reason behind the choice of numbers was that seven staff would have given enough information to conduct research without having too much information that may not have been relevant. It also allowed an equal amount of responses from teachers both in the infants and junior parts of the school.
Kitchen staff were interviewed using structured interviews. Four kitchen staff were interviewed in total from each school. The school in the Caerphilly Area had a total of six kitchen staff and the school in the Cardiff Area had a total of eight kitchen staff. They were interviewed individually and all interviews were conducted when they had finished their kitchen duties. All structured interviews were conducted over a period of 10 minutes.
Structured interviews are a good example of having a clear set of questions and they maintain a clear focus on a given interview. (Marnat, 2009)
The reason behind using this method in both the schools was because kitchen staff do not spend a great deal of time at the school and when they do they are extremely busy. This way they were able to participate without disrupting their job
Complications can also arise from this type of research method. In some cases it can prevent the participant sharing other useful information because of such a strict time scale and set of questions. (Drever, 1995)
The kitchen staff were chosen to be interviewed . The head cook, a dinner lady and two breakfast club staff. They were able to give a clear reflection on children’s food choices, the effectiveness of healthy eating initiatives and the food that children were offered at breakfast and lunch times.
Parents were approached to fill in questionnaires. Five parents from each school were chosen from the infant classes and five parents from the junior classes. This was so there was an equal amount from each age group, and ten parents gave enough information to gain relevant information needed and to analyse results. Parents were asked who would be willing to take part in the research at random choosing the first ten parents seen in each school.
Questionnaires were chosen because it would have been difficult to find time to interview parents as some had other commitments such as jobs and other children to care for. Also they may have been less reluctant to become involved in the research if they believed that it would take up a lot of their time. Therefore questionnaires were chosen as an appropriate method as they could take them home and complete them in their own time.
This is known as self completion questionnaires. These types of questionnaires allow the participant to complete them in their own time and not feel pressured or restricted to a time scale to complete. Also the participants may feel that they can be honest with their answers as the believe that the researcher isn’t analysing them and answers. (Bryman and Bell, 2007)
As parents were one of the main groups of people involved in the research it was important that they give honest, truthful answers. By completing questionnaires that were anonymous they wouldn’t feel as if they were under pressure to give certain answers. Veal, (2006) describes this method and believes that when wanting to receive honest answers from participants this may prove to be the most effective method.
Veal, (2006) does however voice concerns that there may not be an opportunity for participants to expand on any answers they have given when using this method.
To address this problem an extra question was added at the end of the questionnaires that the parents could add any additional information that they felt was relevant to the study.
3.4 – Procedure
Two schools were contacted by letter. (See appendix) A response was received from the schools so research was able to be conducted quickly involving parents, teachers and kitchen staff.. Both school telephoned to confirm that permission had been given to conduct research at the school. Questionnaires and interviews were carried out and completed within one week.
Begley,(2004) discusses the importance of face to face communication and how it is important in order to build up a relationship. It was important to build up a relationship with the school and the staff as research involved working closely with them . Also if a professional relationship is established then they would feel comfortable when being interviewed and give more honest answers which would improve the validity of the study.
The information that was included in the letter was informative and described in detail what type of research was being conducted and the purpose behind it. It also included what participants needed to be interview for the research and how it would be conducted.
It was important that all this information was included, and that any intensions were clearly explained because teachers may be reluctant in participating if not fully aware of what their information that they gave was to be used for. This is known as the principle of ‘informed consent.’ (Tassoni, 2006)
Access to files was given as to how many children were receiving free school meals and how many children went home for lunch or brought their own. It was acknowledged that this information may be difficult to obtain from the other school as there was no strong relationship but information was obtained without any hindrance.
When the research had been conducted both schools were offered a copy of the findings and all questionnaires and interviews. Also both schools were offered copies of the overall research project when completed.
When the schools were approached the head teachers of both schools asked which teachers, kitchen staff and parents were going to be used. This was appreciated as information was obtained from teachers and kitchen staff thought to be relevant to the study. Also, if the head teacher was to chose the staff interview this could effect the validity and reliability of the research as the head teacher may have chosen specific staff and classes to make the school look good.
3.5- Validity and Reliability
This was an important part of the research as it was crucial that these were addressed. Validity is described as the extent to which something is measured what it claims to measure. (Huber- carol, et al, 2002)
It is vital that an investigation is valid in order for all outcomes and results to be accurately evaluated. (Carmines and Zeller, 1990)
Content validity describes research that has all types of questions available to the participant and covers a broad range of topics in relation to the research. (Lissitz, 2009)
It was also important that bias was avoided when completing the research. Bias is described by Horton, (2004) as being a prejudice in a specific sense. It can also be describe as having a preference to one particular point of view or ideology. It is important that this is avoided when carrying out research to ensure that it is valid and reliable.
To avoid bias in the questionnaires and interviews a pilot study was conducted including two teachers from each school, two kitchen staff and three parents from each school.
A Pilot Test is described as a small survey or smaller version of a study to prepare for that particular study. (Ary, et al, 2009)
This was conducted to ‘test out’ the questions as bias is the biggest threat to validity.
To avoid bias when carrying out the research the participants were selected because they were the first people approached. The first seven teachers met were asked to be part of the research and they agreed. The same process when conducted when selecting the kitchen staff of the schools.
Although bias was tried to be avoided, it was still unintentionally bias in some way as all the teachers, kitchen staff and parents were all in some way different to those who didn’t take part. This is sometime the result of a random sample and opportunity samples can sometimes be the result of this. (Babbie, 2008,)
All interviews conducted were exactly the same for each group of participants from each school including the teachers, kitchen staff and parents and all participants were asked the exact same questions. It was also important to ensure that the questions asked at the interview did not spear the participant’s response.
To also avoid any bias the participants were selected as an opportunity sample. This was important as if the head teacher had chosen staff and parents they wanted to participate; they may have told how to respond in fear of making the schools look unprofessional in any answers they may have given. It was also important that they were interviewed individually so the all gave individual responses.
To also ensure that there was no bias I chose two schools which I had not been a pupil myself or worked at. This was because I may have a bias view towards one school and this may have affected the results of the research. Therefore two schools were selected totally at random.
In research, respondent validation is term used to describe the way in which a researcher has helped to improve the validity of a study. An example of this is offering the participants to look over any interviews they may have participated in or any questionnaires they may have completed. (Schwandt, 2001)
This method was used to ensure that all responses given were valid and correct. Participants were given the opportunity to look over their responses once they had taken part. They were then asked if they was correctly noted. Also it ensured that all participants were happy with the way in which their responses had been interpreted.
3.6 – Ethical Issues.
Ethical issues are moral issues and will influence the type of methods that are going to be used throughout the research. (Hugman and Smith, 2004)
As a researcher it was important to be fully aware of ethical issues that may deter the research outcomes and to avoid putting any participants at risk or harm. This is also known as the principle of ‘non-maleficence’. This is defined as the avoidance of any harm to the interest of others. (Cohen, et al, 2000)
When the participants were being debriefed and when they were about to participate in the interviews or questionnaires, they were made fully aware that all research and responses were confidential and names would be kept anonymous. (Greenfield, 2002)
Children were not chosen to be interviewed for the research study as ethical issues may have determined their responses to the questions that were asked or limitations of the questions being asked may have arisen.
All participants were debriefed after their interview or when they handed in questionnaires. This was to ensure that they knew what the research was being used for and what their responses would be used for.
All BERA guidelines were followed throughout the research in order to address any ethical issue. This was to ensure the ethic respect for all participants. (www.bera.ac.uk)
Lastly all participants had the ability to withdraw from the study at any time. It was crucial that all participants gave consent to taking part in the research study by signing a consent form.
Results and Analysis.
Within this chapter, the findings obtained from the research will be discussed. This will include the ten questionnaires completed by parents from each school, seven interviews from seven teachers at each school and four kitchen staff from each school. All the themes emerged from the data will be analysed and all research questions will be discussed.
To ensure that confidentiality guidelines are met, the schools will be referred to as Caerphilly Area and Cardiff Area. Participants will be referred to as a number.
4.1 – Parents Views on Current Healthy Eating Programmes.
In both schools healthy eating initiatives were implemented and both schools had breakfast clubs. Most parents found this helpful and were aware what the current healthy eating initiatives were that were in place in their child’s school.
In the Caerphilly area school, 80% of parents (n=8) were aware of the current healthy eating initiatives in place in their child’s school. Out of these, 70% of them found healthy eating initiatives effective. The 1% of parents that were aware of the current healthy eating initiatives in their child’s school but believed they were not effective stated that the reason for this.
“I believe that the reason the majority of children’s parents send them to breakfast club is because of work commitments. They don’t send their children there because they want them to have breakfast. It’s because they have no one to look after their children until they go to school.” (Caerphilly Area, participant 1.)
It could be argued that this may be true to the majority of parents as it may be more convenient for them if they start work before their child starts school. But even if this is the case you could say that the healthy eating initiative is effective because children are using it and gaining from it. Maybe participant 1’s answer was more in relation to the reason why children use or benefit from the healthy eating initiatives currently in place.
Only 40% of parents said that their children had school meals and attended breakfast clubs and 60% of parents said that their children had sandwiches for lunch.
The parents give a reason for this. Participant 2 answered,
“…. because my child doesn’t like the foods that the school offer. That’s why I give my child sandwiches because then I know that she’s eating her lunch.” (Caerphilly Area, participant 2.)
Another parent described the choices of foods for the reason that their child had sandwiches as there wasn’t enough choice.
From the results only one parent said that they didn’t find the healthy eating initiatives in their child’s school effective. All other parents believed that they were. Therefore, the answers to the two questions that the parents gave are contradicting because if their child doesn’t eat the foods at lunch time because they don’t like them or there isn’t enough choice, then in their case the healthy eating initiatives are not effective.
This is an interesting contradiction. Maybe the reason behind this was because the parents may not have fully understood the question or maybe they believed that breakfast club was an effective healthy eating initiative but not the lunch time meals.
In the Cardiff Area school, the response seemed different and one parent seemed unaware that the healthy eating initiatives in place at their child’s school were in fact healthy eating initiatives. One parent answered,
“I wasn’t aware that they were healthy eating initiatives. I thought that all schools offered this to children.” (Cardiff Area, participant 1.)
90% (n= 9) of parents were aware what healthy eating initiatives were in place at their child’s school and they believed they were effective. 90% (n= 8) of these parents children also had school meals. The majority of parents answered it was their child’s choice. One answered,
“My children enjoy the foods they’re offered at school and I believe that they contribute towards a health diet. So there is no reason why I would choose to give my children sandwiches for their lunch.” (Cardiff Area, participant 2.)
The parents from the two schools seem to have different views on the healthy eating initiatives that are being offered to children. It seems that the school in the Cardiff Area have a more positive view of the healthy eating initiatives as most of the children have school dinners because they enjoy the foods.
4.2 – Parents Influences on children’s food choices.
Tassoni, (2006) believes some of the food choices that children make will be as a result of their parents influence in one way or another. This would also determine what foods children ate at home and what food choices they made.
80% (n= 8) of parents answered that their children ate the same food as them or were influenced by their own foods choices in the school in the Caerphilly Area. 62% of these parents said that the reason for this was convenience .One parent answered,
“There are five of us in the family and I cook for us all. I wouldn’t cook everyone separate meals so all of us eat the same foods at meal times.” (Caerphilly Area, participant 1)
Another parent answered their children liked the foods that they gave them so there was no need to change their eating habits. Although, these answers didn’t state what the foods they were giving their children were or if they were healthy or not.
70% (n= 7) of parents asked, answered that income affected the way in which they bought foods for their family.
This is supported by Klump et al, (2002), who suggests if a child is from a deprived background finically, then they may not be receiving the correct healthy, balanced meal that they require. This may be as a result of parents providing their children with foods they can afford regardless of their nutritional value.
Out of these only 42% (n= 3) said it was important that their children were aware of their food choices and the importance of healthy eating.
These findings support Seaman et al (1997) views. He discussed that young children are influenced by their parents eating habits and will eat what their parents eat and when they eat it. In some cases there may be contributing factors such as work commitments, childcare arrangements and connivance.
In the Cardiff Area school 70% (n= 7) of parents answered they have an influence of their children’s foods choices. Although this is a similar figure to the school in the Caerphilly area, the reasons behind this were different.
“……because my children have always wanted to try what I eat from a young age. I believe that it is important that children try a variety of foods starting when they are young.” (Cardiff Area, participant 3)
“….. I believe that it is very important that children try different foods. It stops them becoming fussy eaters when they older and opens their mind to trying new foods.” (Cardiff Area, participant 4)
It seems the parents from the Cardiff school wish for their children to be experimental with foods and open to new influences. The parents answered that their influence effected their children’s food choices in a way that was beneficial to the child.
When asked if their income affected the food choices for them and their family, everybody asked answered no. This is very significant and shows that socio – economic factors as well as parents influence will have an affect on children’s healthy eating choices.
Counihan, (1997) suggests middle class people, will tend to eat more, nutritious foods compared to them of other classes. This would support the results that suggest that children from a higher socio – economic background eat a healthier diet. It would also support the result that parents from a higher socio-economic background believe that it is important that children experiment with different foods.
Socio economic factors have a great influence on food choices within the family and will very much determine a child’s diet whether it includes the foods that are offered at restaurants or foods that they are given by their parents at meal times. (Squire, 2004)
4.3 – The Implementation of Healthy Eating Lessons.
It is important that children are aware of healthy foods and the importance of them in order to keep our bodies healthy. This can be done throughout many lessons including Personal, Health and Social Education (PHSE) and Science.
The National Grid for Learning (NGFL) – Cymru is an organisation that supports the Foundation Phase. They believe children should learn about healthy foods and they should know why they are making their food choices. (www.nfl-cymru.org.uk) Teachers were asked if they provided these lessons to the children in their class.
In the Caerphilly Area school, 70% (n= 7) of teachers answered no to implementing any sort of discussion or lessons based on the importance of healthy eating. A variety of reasons were given for this. One teacher answered,
“The curriculum doesn’t ask us to focus on lessons that are directed specifically towards healthy eating. We don’t have enough time within the school terms to do this. On some occasions we will introduce a discussion if it is relevant to the topic of that term but otherwise no.” (Caerphilly Area, Participant 5)
A teacher was asked if they thought it was important that children received healthy eating lessons they answered,
“ …..in my personal opinion I think that this is something that children learn throughout many different lessons. In some respects it is also a topic that can be discussed at home. Parents should try introducing new foods to their children and then discuss why these foods are important to us. (Caerphilly Area, participant 6)
This suggests teachers within the school feel this is not their responsibility. When asked if they think that healthy eating lessons or health education should be part of the curriculum one teacher answered,
“Personally I think it would be a good idea. Children will then become more aware of the foods they are choosing when it comes to lunch times. Also, it will help them to establish the difference between, what we call, good and bad foods and not just because they are being told if they are good for us or not.” (Caerphilly Area, participant 7)
This maybe a contradiction that teachers feel it is not their responsibility to include this into the curriculum. This could be because they do not know enough about healthy eating themselves or they feel that they may not have the time to implement it.
The response from the Cardiff Area school was rather different. 90% (n=9) of teachers interviewed answered they did include discussion or lessons into their teaching. Out of these teachers, 66% suggested it was just as important as introducing any lesson within the curriculum and it should be recognised as a subject.
“Healthy eating education is an important part of the curriculum. I think I speak for all the teachers within the school when I say that it needs to be recognised more. By this I mean that it should be seen as important as an English or Science lesson. With the increase of childhood obesity becoming more and more evident in today’s society, children need to be aware of health warnings…….. This is the reason I am all for the current healthy eating initiatives we currently have at the school.” (Cardiff Area, participant 8)
It is evident to see the schools have different views on the importance of healthy eating lessons. The teacher’s attitudes towards this will also have an effect on the children’s views of healthy foods. Also, if the children from the Caerphilly area are having no discussions or information on healthy foods at home as well as in school, then the schools health eating initiatives are not going to be as effective as they can be due to a number of contributing factors.
It is ironic the Cardiff Area school place more emphasis on healthy eating initiatives where the children already receive a healthy diet, compared to the Caerphilly Area school where children eat less healthy and health eating initiatives are not as promoted.
This may be because the school in the Cardiff Area are developing on the ideas and health eating initiatives that the children and parents are already aware of. In the Caerphilly Area, this may be more of a challenge and something that has to be developed over a number of terms.
These results are supported by (Edelstein and Sharlin, 2009) They state the importance of this and believe that without parent support these healthy eating programmes cannot be as effective as they would be with support from parent or guardians. It is also discussed teachers should involve discussion into lessons to explain the importance of this.
The four kitchen staff interviewed were given the opportunity to discuss recommendations that they think should be made in regards to the current healthy eating initiatives that were in place in the schools.
In the Caerphilly area school, the entire kitchen staff interviewed said they believed children should be more educated on healthy eating and the importance of their food choices. One kitchen staff answered,
“…. They (the children) come up to collect their food and I’d say that about half of them don’t know what foods they are choosing or the name of them. They will either point to the food that they want or just say ‘I’ll have that.’ I bet if you were to ask half of them what foods they had chosen they wouldn’t be able to tell you. I think that they need to be told what foods they are and why they are healthy or whatever. Other wise then what’s the point. We may as well offer burger and chips everyday.” (Caerphilly area, participant 9)
The kitchen staff believe children are not fully aware of foods they are eating at lunch times. A sense of frustration was also evident between the kitchen staff because of this.
The findings show there are contradicting views between the teachers, kitchen staff and parents in both schools. These were that the kitchen staff believed that children should receive education on healthy eating although the teachers believed that it was not their responsibility. Another contradiction was the parents in the Caerphilly Area all answered that they believed the healthy eating initiatives in place at their child’s school were effective, but some answered their children didn’t eat school meals because there wasn’t enough choice.
Although these contradicting views are more evident in the Caerphilly area, parents and teachers need to work together to ensure children are receiving education into the importance of healthy eating and healthy foods.
Socio – economic factors are an issue too. These issues need to be addressed in order for the healthy eating initiatives to be affective and all contributing factors need to be addressed.
The next chapter will discuss the findings in more detail and offer recommendations for further research.
This chapter will identify all themes that have arisen from the research. They will be discussed and related to literature previously found and any other relevant literature.
The main features identified were parent’s influences have an influence on children and their eating habits, the way in which parents perceive healthy eating initiatives within their child’s school will affect the way children perceive them, socio economic factors will contribute to parents and child’s eating habits and the two different schools have opposing views on the implementation of healthy eating lessons.
These main features will be identified and critically analyzed in this chapter.
From the findings identified, parents’ influences were described as one of the most important influences in regards to children’s eating habits. This echoes the findings of previous research by Arredondo, et al, (2007) who found the influences a child receives at home will have an effect on their eating habits. This includes what they see parents or siblings eat, their parents attitudes to foods and the food choices the child makes.
This was supported by findings that suggest 60% of parents from the Caerphilly Area School answered that their children go home for lunch or have sandwiches. One parent answered the reason for this was because there wasn’t enough choice of foods. In March 2001, the Scottish Government carried out free school meal trials to primary school children. This was to show parents their children will become healthier later in life by receiving healthy meals and it can also help contribute to higher academic achievement. This was also set up to abolish negative perceptions parents had of these healthy school meals. This was because children were eating their own lunch at school times because the Scottish Government found that parents perceptions of the school meals was the lack of choice of foods and foods that their children enjoyed.
The programme concluded that as a result parent’s attitudes changed and become more positive as a result. The number of children who were now receiving school meals had risen by 28%. (www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/08/29114033/4)
Although this scheme was implemented in Scotland the literature is still relevant as the reason behind this scheme was to encourage children from low socio economic areas and their families to eat healthily and to understand the importance of this. (www.scotland.gov.uk)
Parent’s also stated they believed there wasn’t enough choice for their child and they made the decision that their children do not have school meals. This clearly suggests that in this case the parents influence is a huge component in children’s eating habits.
Responses from the parents of the Caerphilly Area school support the views of parents in Scotland who live in low socio economic areas, but the Scottish Government portray that parents views can be changed and become more positive with the correct support and information. (www.sctoland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/08/29114033/3)
Also in the Caerphilly Area School, 80% of parents stated that their children either ate the same food as them or were influenced by themselves in regards to their eating habits. These findings support Seaman, et al (1997) views. They discussed young children are influenced by parents eating habits and will eat what their parents eat. There may also be contributing factors such as work commitments, childcare arrangements and connivance.
Robinson, (2006) believes this can have implications for children later on in life. If children are not being given the encouragement to try new foods they will become fussy eaters as they get older and then maybe pass these eating habits onto their own children.
The parent’s views within the Cardiff Area School were similar but the reason behind this was very different. 70% of parents answered that they also have an influence over their child’s eating habit’s but for a different reason. These parents believed they encouraged their children to try a variety of foods and felt it important that their children made their own foods choices in moderation. They also believed it was important children tried a variety of foods to open their minds to trying different and new foods.
There are many reasons behind this. It could be suggested because the school from the Caerphilly Area is based in a low socio economic background, this could suggest parents may not be able to afford healthy foods and parents feed their children on what foods they can afford. This is supported by Howard and Thompson, (1998) who suggests people of low socio economic status are less likely to eat healthier than someone from a higher socio economic background. It may also be the case that Cardiff is more cosmopolitan and ethnically mixed than Caerphilly, children from Cardiff will have greater access to a wider variety of foods. (iuiuiui) discusses this and believes that cities such as Cardiff are populated by many people of different backgrounds and cultures where their culture is now integrated into these children’s lives. This includes shops of different cultures including supermarkets who sell a wide variety of foods from these peoples home countries. Therefore children living in these cities may have more choice and more opportunity compared to that of the children from the school in the Caerphilly Area that is situated in a small village. This is regardless of socio economic factors and more relevant to the locations of the school. However, Edelstein, (2010) believes cost and financial income make no difference or contribution to healthy eating and believe it can cost less to prepare a meal including vegetables than to purchase a take away.
Klump, et al, (2002) states if a child is from a deprived background finically, they may not be receiving the correct healthy meal that they require. Sibbel, (2008), suggests if this is the case it can lead to the child having health problems.
Analysing the results and literature it is evident to suggest there are many conflicting views in regards to children’s eating habits and the influence their parents have. The Scottish Government believe children from a lower socio economic background eat less healthy and this is supported by the results of the research. What they aimed to do was eradicate the difference between socio economic factors and healthy eating. Edelstein, (2010) believes this is not the case as it cheaper and more efficient to buy healthier foods. In the Cardiff School parents were asked if they believed their income affected their food choices for their children and their family, all answered no. This was very significant as it suggests maybe they feel this doesn’t affect their food choices but maybe this is because parents can afford to choose what foods their family eat.
Also, the 70% of parents who answered they do have an influence on their child’s food choices stated that this was because they wanted them to try different and new foods may spend less money than those from the Caerphilly Area School. This can be as a result of parents in the Caerphilly Area earning less money so therefore spending less money on foods.
This could be because the parents from the school in the Caerphilly Area who answered their children eat the same foods as them or they chose their child’s foods, said that this was because it was easier and more convenient for them. Although some parents answered that cost played a part in their influence over their children’s foods choices, most parents answered it was a combination of factors. These results could support the fact healthy foods are cheaper than take away’s and not vice versa. This is because parents from the Cardiff Area who believed income didn’t affect their food choices for their family, chose healthier foods compared to the parents of the Caerphilly Area where some believe that healthier foods are more expensive. This could clearly be an assumption by the parents from the Caerphilly Area. They may assume that healthier foods are going to cost more without really looking into it.
This is supported by Squire, (2004) who believes that socio economic factors have a great influence on food choices within the family and determine a child’s diet. It is believed by Squire, (2004) that socio economic factors will determine the way in which parents and children perceive healthy foods and also the portions of healthy foods they consume. The reasons discussed as to why this is apparent include finance, availability of healthy foods and the knowledge that parents have in regards to the importance of healthy eating. This supports results which suggest the children and parents from the higher socio economic area eat more healthy foods.
Parents were also asked their views on healthy eating initiatives implemented by their child’s school. In the Caerphilly Area, 80% of parents were aware of healthy eating initiatives in place in their child’s school. 70% of them found healthy eating initiatives effective. This also has an impact on children’s eating habits as if the parents are happy then they will encourage children to become more involved.
However, these parents answered that they found the current healthy eating initiatives effective but they then answered that the foods on offer for their children were not suitable for their children so they provided them with other foods for lunch. This is confusing and contradicts what they previously answered. Maybe the answers from the question regarding their opinions on healthy eating habits should not be taken too literally. It is essential in order for healthy eating programmes to be effective parents supply healthy and nutritious foods to children at home. Proctor, (2003), believes if children are receiving healthy meals at school and junk foods at home, the healthy eating programmes are not as effective as they can potentially be.
Again, parent’s views on these current healthy eating initiatives will have an impact on the way in which children perceive them. If parents are not giving their children the opportunities to become involved in these initiatives, including breakfast clubs, then children will not be receiving the benefits that they should get from these initiatives. Also, if parents are not giving them healthy foods at home their only opportunity for them to try new foods and eat healthier is at school. By taking them home for lunch or providing them with their own foods at lunch, there are limited opportunities children have to eat a healthy and nutritious meal. Out of the parents who answered that they believed that the healthy eating initiatives within their child’s schools were effective, one parent believed that they were not. They answered they were not effective because the reason behind the parents sending their children to become involved in these initiatives was for there own convenience. They believed that the only reason the majority of children attending breakfast club was because parents used it as a childcare option if they started work before school started.
This was interesting because if this is the reason that parents are sending their children to breakfast club, their children are still receiving the benefits of a healthy and nutritious breakfast regardless. If this is the case the same could be said about children who receive free school meals. This would be the same situation as parents who send their children to breakfast club as an alternative to childcare and parents whose children receive school meals are only willing for their children to receive school meals because they are free and they do not have to pay. Regardless of the factors behind children attending breakfast club or eating school meals, the children are still receiving the benefits.
This is supported by results found from the literature. Nelson, et al, (2007) believes receiving a health meal at school is important for children and those who receive free school meals. This is because for most children, if they do not attend the breakfast clubs or receiving school meals at lunch the schools are offering, they may be going without breakfast or a healthy meal. In some cases it may be the only nutritious meal that they receive throughout the day.
Teachers within both schools were interviewed about their views of healthy eating initiatives within the schools. They were asked if they believed children should receive health eating education. This was because Marotz, (2011) believes that another factor in ensuring that healthy eating initiatives in schools are successful is children knowing what foods they are choosing and why.
Within the Cardiff Area school, 90% of teachers asked said they did implement discussion and lessons into the curriculum in regards to healthy eating and its importance. Parents from the same school also believed the healthy eating initiatives implemented at their child’s school were very successful. 90% of these parents children had school meals and answered their children enjoy the foods they are offered and one parent answered they did not know these healthy eating initiatives were not implemented in every school.
This is significant because this portrays that with the implementation of healthy eating lessons or discussions and the support from parents, healthy eating initiatives can be successful. This is supported by Edelstein and Sharlin, (2009) who state the importance of this and believe without parent support healthy eating programmes cannot be as effective as they would be with support from parents.
These results are also interesting because children from this school are also encouraged by their parents to try new foods. This is also a contributing factor to the success of healthy eating initiatives.
This is a contrast to the school in the Caerphilly Area. 70% of teachers interviewed answered they did not implement lessons or discussions in regards to healthy eating. One teacher believed it wasn’t the responsibility of the school to inform children on what foods are healthy and why. They believed that it was the responsibility of the parents to do this and merely the responsibility of the school to expand this based on what children already know. More than half of parents whose children attend this school also believe the meals children were being offered are not enjoyed by their children so they chose to give them sandwiches instead and foods of their choice. This again is interesting as these are the same parents who answered that their children chose their own foods and are influenced by their parents foods choices regardless of how healthy they are.
These results clearly show why healthy eating initiatives are more successful in the Cardiff Area School compared to the school in the Caerphilly Area. It is also evident to suggest that the reason for this is because the teachers and parents from the school in the Cardiff Area are encouraging children to eat healthier in school and at home. This is not the case at the Caerphilly Area. Therefore, it is evident that in order for these healthy eating initiatives to become successful there needs to be support from parents and teachers first before children can then be educated to voluntarily make healthy food choices. The DRA Project worked closely with eight national healthy eating projects. Their aim was to improve the health of children in low socio economic areas. It is stated in the report that children form these areas eat less healthily and are more likely to develop health problems later on in life including heart problems, obesity and diabetes. They set out to irradiate this difference in low socio economic areas. They found that also in these areas, healthy eating initiatives were less successful. The factors behind this included lack of support from parents, children unwilling to participate and local authorities not implementing these programmes. The DRA Project believes that by implementing these healthy eating programmes in low socio economic areas now, it will help children in the future and change their eating habits that can be passed on to their own children. (DRA Project Report, 2008)
It is difficult to say if socio economic factors play a part in this. This is because it has been discussed and supported by literature that it can be cheaper to prepare a healthy meal than to purchase a takeaway. So a family’s income shouldn’t really have an effect on the way children eat and what they eat. It is important to acknowledge however, that in some cases where children are living in poverty then income will have a major influence on their eating habits. But it is evident to suggest that income and socio economic do have an influence on healthy eating habits in regards to children and their families. This is evident from the research conducted and relevant literature. The relationship between poverty and healthy eating and obesity is complicated but research now shows that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be overweight. Much of this is due to comfort eating of fast foods or only being able to eat what you can afford. (Flamenbaum, 2006) Bob Holman discussed that this is something that will continue if the government doesn’t address the problem. He believes that this is a result of deprivation and also believes that parents know that fatty foods are not good for their children but they cannot afford the alternative. (www.sirc.org/articles/poverty_and_obesity)
In conclusion it is evident from the research conducted and various literatures, that parent’s attitudes will have an impact on children’s healthy eating habits. This includes their attitudes to the current healthy eating initiatives that are in place in their children’s school, the foods that they offer their children at home and their overall socio economic status.
It is also evident that in order for these healthy eating initiatives to be successful then their needs to be support from teachers and parents and they both need to work together in order to ensure that children are receiving a healthy meal at school.
The two schools both have different views in regards to the importance of these healthy eating initiatives and the way in which parents encourage their children to become involved in these and the foods that they offer at home.
It was interesting to see that the parents from a higher socio economic background believed that income didn’t affect the way in which they chose to ensure that their children ate healthy foods and they believed that income did not affect their food choices. This was compared to the school form a lower socio economic background who believed that their income affected their family’s food choices but this was because they believed that the healthier foods were much more costly. This was also supported by literature that suggested that people
Schneider, (2010) disputes this and actually believes that it is more cost efficient to ensure that your family eat a health, cooked meal as opposed to non healthy foods. These are perceptions of people who need to eradicate their assumptions of healthy foods.
Overall the research was successful. The research question was answered in regards to the effectiveness of health eating initiatives in primary schools but many contributing factors arose from the research that suggest that if they are not addressed then health eating initiatives will not be as effective as they could be.
In conclusion it is evident to suggest that the research was successful. The aim of the research was to establish if healthy eating initiatives are successful in primary schools. Not only was the question answered but the research concluded there are many contributing factors to whether school children eat healthily. Healthy eating initiatives in schools need to be supported by teachers and parents in order for them to become successful.
The first finding concluded that parents play a very significant part in their children’s food choices and habits. The parents questioned answered that they make the majority of their children’s food choices. This may be because of convenience or wanting to ensure that their children are trying a wide variety of different foods.
Socio economic factors played a very important role in this. The majority of parent’s answered that the reason they had such a big influence over their children’s foods choices was because they would encourage them to try different foods to ensure that they didn’t become fussy eaters as they became older. The majority of parents who were from a lower socio economic background answered that the reason they made the majority of their children’s food choices was because of convenience. This showed that socio economic factors contributed greatly to the influence parents had over children’s food choices and what healthy foods they were eating at home.
The research also concluded parents had a great influence over their children’s food choices within the school setting. The parents from the lower socio economic background were questioned about current healthy eating initiatives at their child’s school. Again, the majority of parents believed that the foods offered at lunch and breakfast times were not sufficient to their children’s preferences so they chose to either provide their children with food or chose to allow their children to go home for lunch.
Teachers were also found to have a major impact on the way in which in which children became aware of the importance of healthy eating. Again, socio economic factors played an important part in these answers. The teachers from the school within the higher socio economic background answered that they did not believe that it was the responsibility of the school to introduce healthy eating lessons because they simply could not fit it into the curriculum. Therefore, children should be receiving this information at home. The majority of teachers did however answer that where possible, lessons would include discussion about healthy foods and the importance of healthy eating. In the school from the higher socio economic background, teachers answered that they included healthy eating discussions when possible and believed it was the responsibility of the school to do so. However, both schools did answer that they didn’t implement healthy eating lessons.
Overall, the main findings from the research concluded that socio economic factors were the most important influence of the effectiveness of healthy eating initiatives with the influence of parents contributing.
There research was evidently successful and obtaining the results was also successful. Both schools were eager to respond to the letters handed out asking to carry out research and they both telephoned to confirm that research could be carried out at the school. (See appendix for letters) The only implication in obtaining any information form the participants would be from the parents themselves. This is because the school only see the parents for a maximum of five minutes each day so interviewing them would prove to be very difficult. Early on in the research it was decided that in order to obtain relevant information form the parents then the appropriate method would be to use questionnaires. This proved to be successful in both schools as all questionnaires that were handed out were returned within two weeks. As a recommendation for future research, parents could be interviewed as this is a better method of finding out their opinions than questionnaires which, of course, have limitations in that respect.
The limitations to the research included the involvement of the teachers within one school. Although they agreed to be interviewed during one lunch time with two weeks notice, they still gave the impression that they wanted the research to be over and done with as quickly as possible. This may have affected the results but not greatly. The reason being that when being interviewed they answered the question and expanded upon it but not as thoroughly as the teachers from the other school. For future research it would be beneficial to interview a bigger sample of teachers in wider variety of schools. Alternatively, the teachers could have been interviewed throughout the school year as part of a longitudinal study. This would then allow the researcher to identify and observe changes throughout the year.
In regards to further research maybe socio economic factors could be investigated to see if there was a direct result between this and healthy eating. This is because that although the research concluded that it was a factor there is literature available that have many contrasting views.
Overall the research was very successful. The aim of the study was fully answered and the answers were able to be analyzed efficiently and effectively. There were little implications to the research but implications present were able to be amended and evaluated if further research was to be carried out. The research allowed the researcher to analyze if healthy eating initiatives were effective in primary schools. The results not only answered yes but also portrayed many other contributing factors to this and materials for any further research.