Perceptions of parents and children, participating in a school-based feeding programme in disadvantaged areas in Greece: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Aim

The aim of this work was to explore parents' and children's attitudes towards healthy eating and the free provision of a daily school meal in underprivileged areas of Greece.

Methods

Twenty focus groups were conducted in 14 schools. Eligible participants were children/adolescents and their parents, who were recipients of a food aid, healthy nutrition school-based programme. Their perceptions towards healthy eating and related barriers, experience of a school feeding programme, other nutrition intervention initiatives were qualitatively evaluated.

Results

Most of the parents referred to the Mediterranean diet as a healthy dietary pattern. Nearly all parents were aware of their effect as role models and commented on the benefits of eating together as a family, as well as on the importance of improving their own dietary habits. Parents reported using various methods to promote a healthy diet, as part of their parenting role. They perceived their role as difficult, as they have to deal with children's resistance, financial constraints arising from the current economic crisis in Greece and busy work schedules. All students perceived the school feeding programme as health-promoting, reflecting their parents' perceptions.

Conclusion

The present findings indicate that although the traditional Mediterranean diet was perceived by the majority of the adults as a health and traditional dietary pattern, parents reported several barriers related to its adoption. In particular, the most common barriers included financial difficulties, limited time for food preparation and children's resistance to consume healthy foods.

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