The feeding of children is an issue of growing concern to society, especially when taking into account the latest data on childhood obesity; It shows how the figures have doubled in recent years and led Spain to match a northern European countries, in fact, the rate of child obesity in Spain is around 14%. Feeding of children in schools is essential for proper development. The children spend at school about 170 days a year, days on which includes food and this food accounts for 30% of nutrient inputs during the day. For these and other reasons, the OCU decided to conduct the analysis of school menus, This study is part of activities related to one of the priorities of the Organization for 2006 that is Weight and Health.
The OCU wanted to check if the meals offered in schools are synonymous with healthy eating, if provided the necessary nutrients for each age and if they were flexible enough to adapt to the particularities of students with certain diseases, allergies, religious beliefs, etc. To end this, the Organization has conducted a survey of 934 school menus. As a first conclusion the OCU believes that school meals are not balanced and forms of food preparation. The full study is published in the Health -OCU journal of October.
In most menus analyzed by the OCU, first dish was based on carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetable) or vegetables. None of these early dishes based hydrate problems analyzed thus reaching the minimum recommended servings. A curious fact is that you can see the differences of each gastronomic region, since each one serves a greater number of times a food depending on preference. Another point is the presence of vegetables in this first course, which is weak. The number of servings of vegetables in the menus is increased because they offer vegetables as garnish of the main course. This is not the most correct because many children leave them in the dish. Ideally they must include vegetable first. The Canary Islands are the only community where the vegetable plate is the first most frequent. It is in private schools, that they include vegetables more times as first. The menus for children under 5 years include more vegetables than the others.
The analysis of the second plate shows that the food that is repeated more times during the week is the meat, almost 3 times. Unfortunately, eggs and fish are scarce. The OCU considered core to reduce the consumption of meat and increase fish and eggs, and meat that contributes to increase in dietary saturated fat and cholesterol. Analyzed according to the menus, it seems that something is consumed more fish and eggs in public schools.
As dessert, in most cases, fruit, but sometimes it is presented in syrup, which is not desirable for its high sugar content. Madrid, Catalonia and Aragon are the communities that stand out including 3 times a week fruit, by contrast, Galicia has less fruit. According to the OCU, milk and yoghurt are scarce in the diet offered by the schools. Madrid again noted for being the largest community of milk and yogurt in school menus and Catalonia the opposite.
The study shows that the preparing meals are unimaginative: pureed vegetables, meat, stews, fish, boiled or fried, potatoes or salad as a garnish. The fries are not too general, however, in Galicia in values, it is very close to the limit. The public schools are the least likely to offer fried foods.
The price of the menu is another fact that the study of the OCU offers. The more expensive schools agreed to offer their price meals, an average of 94.21 euros per month, followed by private, on average 89.80 euros, and finally, the public, with an average of 68.40 euros per month.
With these not too encouraging data
The OCU offers families:
- Caring the rest of the meals of the day in order to overcome the possible shortcomings of the school menu.
- Suing a menu more suitable and with better service to the relevant authorities.
The OCU ask the Administration:
- Professionals in nutrition by controlling the composition and preparation of menus.
- To establish a minimum intake of the different types of food.
- To ensure the provision of menus to schoolchildren who need it.
- To assess in a systematic manner, the nutritional requirements from the school for the menus can be adapted to new needs.
- A follow-up at the centers to see if they meet the stated minimum.
The OCU consider essential for colleges:
- Making meals for instill proper eating habits and knowledge on nutrition and hygiene, respect for food, companions, etc.
- Preparing periodic reports for each child.
- Providing programming menus, which indicates clearly that is composed.
- Offering families practical information and guidelines about how to complement the menu throughout the day.