Study looks at consumption in Brazilian private school’s canteens

Study shows that changes in the nutritional quality of school canteen menus contribute to healthier diets for children and adolescents.
25 May 2021
Study looks at consumption in Brazilian private school’s canteens

The introduction of healthy products in school canteens and a reduction in the supply of unhealthy products both contribute to an increase in the consumption of beverages and foods of high nutritional value. This is the main finding of a new study called “Supply and Consumption of Drinks and Food in Brazilian Private School Canteens.”

The study, conducted through a partnership between the Center for Behavioral Research at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (FGV EBAPE) and the company Nutrebem, has just been published in Preventive Medicine, a scientific journal that specializes in disease prevention, promotion of healthy habits and public health policies.

The proportion of children and adolescents who are obese or overweight is growing every year in Latin American countries. Without an adequate prevention and reversal strategy, it is expected that by 2030, 22.8% of children and 15.7% of adolescents in Brazil will suffer from obesity. Studies on children’s and adolescents’ diets consistently reveal the important role of schools in developing healthy habits and, as a consequence, in improving students’ overall health.

With this in mind, three researchers at FGV EBAPE’s Center for Behavioral Research, Bernardo Andretti, Rafael Goldszmidt and Eduardo Andrade, analyzed the relationship between changes in the supply of products in school canteens and the pattern of future purchases by children and adolescents. The results show that the introduction of a healthy product (of high nutritional value) in a canteen menu increases students’ average monthly consumption of healthy products by 3.7%. Removing an unhealthy product (of low nutritional value) also increases students’ average monthly consumption of healthy products, in this case by 0.6%.

The study evaluated supply and consumption patterns in the canteens of 54 private schools in Brazil for three years. Through a partnership with Nutrebem, the company responsible for these canteens’ purchasing systems, more than 4 million purchases by over 20,000 children and adolescents were observed.

Despite weak supervision of school canteens, the researchers stress that parents, children, adolescents and school canteen managers all have an important role in improving food at schools. It is essential to raise the awareness of canteen managers and for parents and schools to educate children about food, so they are encouraged and induced to improve their diet, both inside and outside school.

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