School lunch and learning behaviour in primary schools: An intervention study

R. Golley, E. Baines, P. Bassett, L. Wood, J. Pearce, M. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Objectives:In addition to the nutritional benefits of healthier school food, anecdotes describe improvements in children's behaviour and educational outcomes when school food or the school dining room environment is improved. This study hypothesized that a school food and dining room intervention would improve pupils learning-related classroom behaviour.Subjects/Methods:A controlled intervention trial involving six primary schools matched in triplets and randomly assigned to a 12-week intervention (promotion of healthier school food at lunchtime and changes in the school dining environment) or 12-week wait-listed control group. Study outcome was learning-related behaviours measured in a random sample of 146 pupils in years 3-5.Results:On-task and off-task behaviours were observed and used as proxy measures for concentration and disengagement (disruption), respectively. Teacher-pupil on-task engagement was 3.4 times more likely in the intervention schools compared with the control schools (adjusted model odds ratio (OR)3.40 (95% confidence interval (CI)1.56, 7.36), P < 0.009). However, on-task pupil-pupil behaviour was less likely in the intervention group (adjusted model OR0.45 (95% CI0.28, 0.70), P < 0.001). Similarly, off-task pupil-pupil behaviour was more likely in the intervention group than in the control group in both the unadjusted model (OR2.18 (95% CI1.52, 3.13), P0.001) and the adjusted model (OR2.28 (95% CI1.25, 4.17), P0.007).Conclusions:This study offers some support for the hypothesis that a school food and dining room intervention can have a positive impact on pupils alertness. However, if raised alertness is not channelled and supervised, it may result in increased off-task behaviour when pupils are working together.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1280-1288
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • behaviour
  • intervention study
  • learning
  • primary school
  • school lunch
  • UK


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