JMIR Research Protocols
URL with Digital Object Identifier
Background: Good nutrition affects children's health, well-being, and learning, and schools offer an important setting to promote healthy behaviors that can last a lifetime. Once children reach school age, they spend more of their waking hours in school than in any other environment. Children's eating habits may be easier to influence than those of adults. In Canada, households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity, and school food programs that are universally available to all children can support the development of healthy eating patterns across groups of varying socioeconomic status. There is a significant gap in the rigorous community-engaged academic research on the impact of school meal programs, especially universal ones. Objective: The aim of this population health intervention research is to study the impact of a 2-year universal, curriculum-integrated healthy school lunch program in elementary schools in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on food consumption, dietary quality and food and nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Methods: This population health intervention study will be conducted in 2 intervention elementary schools matched with 2 control schools. We will collect preintervention data, including objective measurements of food eaten at school and food-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. This will be followed by the intervention itself, along with qualitative case studies of the intervention process in the 2 intervention schools. Then, we will collect postintervention data similar to the preintervention data. Finally, we will finish the data analysis and complete the ongoing sharing of learning from the project. Results: This study was funded in April 2020 but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection did not begin until May 2021. The intervention will begin in September 2021 and end in June 2023, with end point data collection occurring in May and June 2023. The case study research will begin in September 2021 and will be ongoing for the duration of the intervention. Conclusions: The opportunity we have to systematically and comprehensively study a curriculum-integrated school lunch program, as well as the promising practices for school food programs across Canada, is without precedent.