Families facing back to school lunchbox pinch

Thursday, 01 February, 2024

Families facing back to school lunchbox pinch

A study by Flinders University, University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Population Health Service experts has found that families can face a pinch when packing a school lunchbox, spending about $25 per child weekly.

Flinders University PhD candidate and dietitian Alexandra Manson said eating well at school is key for children’s growth, learning and development, with schooltime food consumption making up one-third of dietary intake.

The study unpacked the lunchbox contents of more than 1000 children aged 4–12 years in NSW, finding most families spend between $3 and $6 per child daily, with healthier options providing lower costs.

“We know families face a lot of challenges when packing lunchboxes. Trying to provide affordable, healthy, convenient, enjoyable goods that comply with the school rules can be time-consuming,” Manson said.

Some families spend more for convenience choices while others struggle to afford lunchbox food.

Over their education, children eat 2400 lunches at school, providing many opportunities for learning about food and developing references.

The research team is also looking into the potential for school-provided meals in Australia.

“There’s more we can do to make sure the system is supporting all families. Ensuring tasty, healthy, affordable choices are readily available in and around schools would be a great start,” Mansen said.

Flinders University co-author Dr Brittany Johnson said, “We need to start thinking about how we can best support families to ease the lunchbox burden and ensure all children have access to healthy food every day at school.”

According to Johnson, one in two children around the world receive school-provided meals.

“Our research is currently exploring parent and stakeholder interest in school-provided meals and understanding what different families might need in such a model,” Johnson said.

Image credit: iStock.com/dashek

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