“That's His Choice Not Mine!” Parents' Perspectives on Providing a Packed Lunch for Their Children in Primary School

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Objective:To examine factors influencing parents' selection of packed lunches over a school lunch, their choices in food preparation, and the role of children within these.Design:A qualitative approach using semistructured focus group and individual interviews.Setting:Four primary schools in a UK local authority.Participants:Twenty parents providing a packed lunch for their children (aged 5–11 years).Analysis:An inductive thematic approach was used to identify categories and themes. The researchers maintained rigor in the data analysis through internal discussion and review until consensus was reached.Results:Children emerged as active decision makers exerting substantial power particularly in the initial decision to have a packed lunch, and then in influencing the lunch's contents. The packed lunch could be a source of anxiety for some parents; however, ultimately parents' attitudes and perceptions revolved around the key requirement that the lunch was eaten. Providing a packed lunch was a means of achieving this.Conclusions:This study highlights children's growing authority over everyday food decisions. Further research is needed to explore children's perceptions of their role in food provision. The study's findings have implications for school food, nutrition education, and school-based interventions. Frameworks that look to improve children's nutrition in this area should reflect children's growing status as food decision makers and consider how this can be employed to support and sustain positive changes.

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