Abstract

Introduction: Childhood obesity and overweight have reached alarming numbers world wise. The school environment has proven to be an optimal area to develop strategies against this situation. Methods: This project had the main objective of creating and implementing an educational approach to use the school canteen as a nutrition educational space. Its target population were the students from first to sixth grade and the school staff. It was developed in four phases: diagnosis, proposal, implementation and evaluation. A guided questionnaire was applied to students inquiring about food preferences and practices, and their opinions on the school canteen. In addition, there were focus groups with the staff and an evaluation of the consuming area in structure and service. The proposal included the importance of breakfast, self-regulation of meals and fruit and vegetable consumption. Education messages were created, tastings for new preparations were implemented and the redecoration of the dining area developed for a three-month period. Results: After the implementation, there were no changes in food preferences or opinion on the canteen. The main changes were found in students who reported eating double lunch, which decreased by 12%, the ones that said they never ate breakfast decreased 3% and the ones who bring snacks, decreased 4% Conclusion: the school canteen demonstrated to be useful to make changes in nutritional habits and knowledge of the students. However, it is necessary to encourage other nutritional education projects for longer periods and better long-term adherence evaluation of the healthy eating practices in the students.

Keywords: Childhood obesity, nutrition education, School food dining