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Free school meals: socio-ecological Influences on school level take up of entitlement

Addis, Samia ORCID: and Murphy, Simon ORCID: 2018. Free school meals: socio-ecological Influences on school level take up of entitlement. British Journal of School Nursing 13 (8) , pp. 394-402. 10.12968/bjsn.2018.13.8.394

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Background: Free school meals have a role in supplementing the diets of children from low income families to ensure adequate nutritional status and ensure healthy growth and development. However, a sizeable proportion of those entitled to free school meals do not register, or once registered, do not take the meal. Previous research has identified individual factors which influence take up but does not necessarily place these factors within the wider context in which they occur. Aims: Using a socio-ecological approach, this paper reports a qualitative exploration of factors across a range of analytical levels (policy, community, organisation and individual) which influence parents and pupils in registering and using free school meal entitlement within the secondary school setting. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with parents or carers (n=13) and pupils (n=19) were undertaken in four secondary schools within one local authority in Wales. Schools were selected to represent a range in terms of level of entitlement and uptake of free school meals and data were analysed using a framework approach. Results: In terms of policy, participants reported that the targeted and means tested nature of free school meal entitlement has an impact on some families. They also reported that there was potential for stigma, although this varied according to the level of entitlement within the community. Within the school setting (organisation) the degree to which free school meals were promoted and the processes in place to ensure anonymity for free school meal pupils were highlighted as factors that influenced uptake. At the individual level, the ability to conform to the consumption patterns and practices of the wider pupil population was important for free school meal pupils. Conclusions: The nature and implementation of free school meal policy has implications for pupils with entitlement. As a result, pupils on free school meals may struggle to participate in the food practices of the wider pupil population and this influences the uptake of entitlement.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Mark Allen Healthcare
ISSN: 1752-2803
Funders: Health and Care Research Wales
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 02:54

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