Dubuisson C, Lioret S, Dufour A, Calamassi-Tran G, Volatier JL, Lafay L, Turck D - 46329 N - Public Health Nutr 2015 ; in press.

The relationship between school lunch attendance and the food intakes of French schoolchildren aged 3-17 years

OBJECTIVE: Recently, school meal composition regulations have been implemented in France in order to improve the nutritional status of children. The present study investigated the link between school lunch attendance and the food intakes of schoolchildren aged 3-17 years.
DESIGN: Second French cross-sectional dietary survey (2006-2007). Eating frequencies were assessed for twenty-four food groups with a 7 d food record. Eating locations were recorded for main meals. Food group intakes at weekday lunches were compared for the school canteen and for other locations. The children’s overall dietary intake was compared based on school lunch attendance.
SETTING: Mainland France.
SUBJECTS: Schoolchildren aged 3-17 years (n 1068).
RESULTS: Lunchtime food intake differed between the school canteen and other locations. Some intakes at school canteens were more in accordance with the regulations (more fruit and vegetables, fish and dairy products, and less sandwiches, soft drinks, chocolate and confectionery), whereas others highlighted needs for improvement (more sweet biscuits and pastries, ice cream and dairy desserts, pizzas and salty pastries). Many of these differences were also observed in the children’s overall diet: children regularly attending school lunches ate more mashed fruit, fish and sweet biscuits or pastries, and less sandwiches and soft drinks. The link between school lunch attendance and overall diet was less pronounced in secondary-school children.
CONCLUSIONS: School canteen attendance is associated with both potentially beneficial and deleterious differences in the lunchtime and overall diets of French children. These findings are important to consider when setting national regulations for school meal composition.