An online survey capturing the views of stakeholders on primary school food systems across the four UK nations

on behalf of the GENIUS Network

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In 2020, the Generating Excellent Nutrition in UK Schools (GENIUS) Network was established to develop an understanding of the school food system across the four UK nations. This study explores stakeholders’ views (headteachers, teachers, parents and pupils) on what works well, the challenges, and what an ideal primary school food system includes.

An online ‘School Food Survey’ was created in Qualtrics XM including closed and open-ended questions about the primary school food system. The Qualtrics link was distributed to stakeholders with an interest in school food through key contacts and networks across the four UK nations (21st June to 21st July and September 2021). Responses from the open-ended questions were exported from Qualtrics into Excel and analysed using SPSS. Aspects of qualitative content analysis were applied to summarise, code and quantify responses. Identified codes were entered by stakeholder, for example, parents and their response to the question into a Matrix table to allow identification of categories, themes and interpretation.

A total of 509 participants completed the survey: most participants were from Scotland (n = 281; 55%) and England (n = 213; 42%) and were parents (n = 394). There were some consistent views across stakeholder responses, for example, the range of healthy options, costs, and portion sizes offered to pupils. Parents views varied, with some expressing the range of healthy options worked well and others reporting too many unhealthy choices. The cost of school food and school food funding presented challenges for both parents and schools. For parents, an ideal school food system would include a wide variety of fresh healthy food choices that were made on site, use quality produce, be inclusive for all cultures and diets, and provide food portion sizes appropriate for pupils ages.

The findings iterate the diversity and some inconsistencies between stakeholders, emphasising the complexity and competing tensions school food systems encounter. Parental involvement and consideration of school-level and national factors are important when identifying challenges, what works well and describing an ideal primary school food system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number719
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 06 Mar 2024


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