Characteristics of successful primary school-based experiential nutrition programmes: A systematic literature review

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Public Health Nutrition


Objective: Diet and nutrition in childhood has been associated with the risk of chronic disease later in life. The aim of this review was to identify key characteristics of successful experiential nutrition interventions aimed to change nutrition-related cognitive and behavioural outcomes in primary schoolchildren. Design: A systematic literature review was undertaken using search terms ('food security', 'school', 'nutrition' and 'program') applied to five scientific databases (CINAHL, Scopus, Web of Science, Medline and Academic Search complete), with outcomes defined as nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and/or dietary behaviours. Participants: Primary school-aged children exposed to interventions conducted, at least partially, on school grounds. Results: A total of 3800 articles were identified from the initial search and manual searching, of which sixty-seven articles were eligible for inclusion. Forty-two articles met the criteria of being successful, defined as achieving significant differences in outcomes of interest, accompanied by a demonstrated reach. Interventions included school gardens (n 9), food provision (n 5), taste testing (n 8), cooking classes (n 10) and multicomponent programmes (n 10). Nutrition education (when combined with taste testing), cooking-related activities and gardening interventions increased children's willingness to taste unfamiliar foods including new fruits and vegetables, improved their cooking and food preparation skills and increased nutritional knowledge. Conclusions: This review provides evidence that nutrition education programmes in primary schoolchildren that are experiential in nature are most likely to be successful if they include multiple strategies, have parental involvement and focus specifically on vegetable intake.

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