Background: The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to school lunches leading to concerns over acceptability and uptake by vulnerable children. Data from Tayside, Scotland, showed that only 55% of children who were eligible for free school meals took these (uptake pre-pandemic was 66%). The current work aimed to identify teachers’ perceptions of meal provisioning in primary schools during the first year of the pandemic.

Methods: Using an online survey (21 multiple choice questions and open text) and interviews, primary school teachers shared their views on food quality, quantity, choices, and factors influencing uptake of school lunches. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and thematically analysed according to factors influencing consumption.

Results: The survey was completed by 41 teachers and eight undertook interviews. Around one third (29%) believed the quality of lunches had decreased and cited poor appearance of food, use of takeaway containers and food wastage. The lunch format was viewed negatively due to the substitution of the hot lunch with sandwiches, portion sizes, choice, and perceived value for money. Concerns were expressed about acceptability and how far meals contributed to food security.

Conclusions: Further work on food provisioning is needed to identify ways to provide a nutritional safety net for vulnerable children.


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Cite as

Zaremba, S., Cook, W. & Anderson, A. 2023, '‘It was called a grab bag and nobody wanted to grab them’: Teachers’ perceptions of school lunches during the COVID-19 pandemic - a regional case study', Journal of Public Health Research, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/22799036231193071

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Last updated: 01 September 2023
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