Effect of school meals greater than expected

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Offering a meal at primary school has a positive effect on the energy and concentration of pupils. In addition, children eat healthier and offering a meal improves the bond between parents and the school. This has emerged from research by the Youth Education Fund at primary schools throughout the Netherlands.

Sandwich bar

Since October 2022, more than 500 primary schools throughout the Netherlands have appealed to the Youth Education Fund to offer their students a free meal from the so-called “Boterhammenbar”. The schools themselves were allowed to choose a suitable form for offering food: 53 percent of the schools opted to offer breakfast, 43 percent (also) offered snacks and 36 percent (also) lunch. Some schools also gave packages home.

More concentration and less stress

The Youth Education Fund investigated the effect of school meals among 457 primary schools affiliated with the fund. In the survey, the schools were asked about, among other things, the work attitude and learning performance of pupils. The results are better than expected: 66 percent of the respondents experience that students have more energy, 63 percent notice that students can concentrate better and 70 percent think that students eat healthier since they have a meal at school. A positive effect on the atmosphere in class is also seen and students show fewer signs of stress.

More parental involvement

The research also shows that the Boterhammenbar creates a closer bond and more involvement between the school, students and their parents or carers. Almost 90 percent of the respondents indicate that parents respond positively to the offer of free meals for their children. In some schools, school breakfast was only offered to children who may need it. In those cases, it was more difficult to reach parents and children with the offer because they were ashamed, the study showed. At schools where no distinction is made and all children can eat along, children and parents do not experience this threshold. Since the Boterhammenbar, there is more insight into the home situation and parents are more involved in the school. The threshold to contact has become lower: 44 percent of the respondents notice that parents and carers ask for help more often with (financial) problems.

Grant extension

OTo realize the Boterhammenbar, the Youth Education Fund has received a number of months of subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Thanks to an extension of this subsidy, schools can continue to offer meals for the time being. The Youth Education Fund is currently working with the Red Cross and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on a plan to provide school meals in the longer term at primary and secondary schools where it is most needed.

You will find the results of the research here.

Source: Youth Education Fund

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