Specific Goals Are Key for School Food Programs

Review of studies provides reasons why some programs work and some don't

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- School feeding programs are most effective when they are aimed at children with documented nutritional deficiencies and when they are designed in partnership with members of the local community, rather than by distant experts, according to a review of studies published in the October issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Trisha Greenhalgh, M.D., professor of primary health care at University College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed 18 studies, including trials from five continents spanning 80 years. Conclusions were hampered by the wide varieties of program design and cultural contexts reviewed, the authors note.

Successful feeding programs tended to be those that were of local rather than distant design, had supervision that ensured the supplemented food is actually eaten, and attention given to the social aspects of the meal in programs aimed at disaffected youth. Among reasons feeding programs failed to accomplish their goals were misguided definitions of goals (correcting a nutritional deficiency that didn't exist, for example) and poor implementation. In very poor countries there was some evidence that children who were fed more at school were fed less at home.

"Simply knowing that feeding programs work is not enough for policymakers to decide on the type of intervention that should be implemented," the authors write.

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