If I don't like it then I can choose what I want’: Welsh school children's accounts of preference for and control over food choice

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Warren, Emily ; Parry, Odette ; Lynch, R ; Murphy, S
  • Publisher: Glyndŵr University Research Online
  • Subject: Maternal and Child Health | children | Community Health | choice | Food Science | food
    mesheuropmc: digestive, oral, and skin physiology

The paper draws on qualitative data collected in focus groups with primary school pupils in years three and five (ages 7–11 years), carried out as part of a wider study evaluating the Primary School Free Breakfast Initiative in Wales. A total of 16 focus groups were carried out across eight schools to examine pupil's perceptions of food and food related behaviour. A key finding was the way in which control over choice of food and access to healthy/unhealthy food options differed between younger and older pupils across home, school and eating out settings. While older participants experienced and valued high levels of control over food choice in all three settings, this was not the case for younger participants. Pupils in year three had little choice, particularly at home and school, with other factors (such as security, structure and mealtime companionship) being more important to them than ability to choose what they ate. All participants in the study expressed a general preference for unhealthy as opposed to healthy food items, even when acknowledging health consequences and engaging in some compensatory strategies. The authors suggest that interventions should aim to educate and encourage food providers, such as parents/carers, schools, and food outlets, to produce a range of healthy options, and encourage informed food choice among children at a younger age.
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