Master of Business Administration Executive
Faculty / School
Faculty of Business Administration (FBA)
Year of Award
MBA Executive Research Project
School lunch programs, Pakistan
The nutritional status of children is of vital importance and concern for healthy, physical and mental development and growth. Since children spend almost half their day at school, it is important that they consume the right amount and right type of nutrients through their school lunch. The quality of food they consume during their lunch breaks at school can be controlled and altered to a great extent. At present, the school lunch options that children have, are limited to (1) home prepared and packed lunch, (2) Market bought food placed in child's lunch box, and (3) School canteen food which the children can purchase and consume. In some schools, food supply has been outsourced to a vendor who has undertaken the responsibility to deliver school meals to the school on a daily basis. However, these are at the discretion of the vendor, who mostly supplies food to suit the needs and taste palates of the students. In spite of the deplorable child and adult health situation in the country, no legislation has been passed with minimum standards of nutrition, health and hygiene for food providers to comply with. Immense work has been done in the form of surveys and programs by international organizations, like WHO, UNICEF etc., taking interest in safeguarding the rights to health in the developing countries, including Pakistan, but most of this work was on children below five or six years of age. The initiatives that were taken to protect the rights of children, under Survival, Protection and Development categories, all went in vain because of carelessness in following guidelines for reporting, and negligence in other areas like resource allocation for children’s rights portrayed by the Government of Pakistan.
In this project an attempt has been made to study and understand the current school lunch consumption behaviors and practices, through both qualitative and quantitative research conducted in five private, primary schools of Karachi. These schools target the Middle and Upper Socio Economic Classes. Mix methodologies were employed to conduct the research. These included survey from parents, face to face discussion with school children, and observation of their school lunch, and in-depth interviews with school managements, pediatricians and nutritionists.
Face to face interviews were conducted with the school managements of five urban, private, primary schools of Karachi, targeting the middle to upper middle and upper class. Through these interviews, school management’s perception was taken on the available school lunch options to their school children, and the health and nutrition aspect of these foods. Through a face to face discussion, food preferences of children were discussed with them, and their opinions taken on the lunch they were eating and its source. The survey covered broad areas like their food preferences, what these children were eating, what they felt about it, what their favorite foods were, and what perception they had about the canteen food (if available at their school), and foods they were discouraged by their parents to consume. Through a survey questionnaire sent to parents of these school children, an understanding of their perceptions regarding their children’s diet, nutrition, and school lunch consumption was developed by identifying the parents’ current practices, and perceptions of a healthy and nutritious school lunch. With the help of responses collected from parents and guardians, gaps, were identified, while deciding and preparing what their children consume during school snack breaks. From the health sector, three pediatricians and three nutritionists were taken on board, to shed light on the current health situation of children aged 5 to 12 years, the health risks associated with their diet and what different groups of people can do to ensure a safer and healthier future generation for Pakistan.
The results indicated a gloomy picture of the school lunch consumption practices of primary school children. 13% of the parents’ perception about the importance of school lunch for their child ranged from not important to moderately important. Most of the days, 35% children ate school lunch from either the school canteen, market bought ready-made food or did not eat lunch at all.
The responses received and results from primary research directed towards the dire need for the Government of Pakistan to focus on health and nutrition, for the physical and mental well-being of the children, and to secure their future as healthy, contributing adults by intervening in the food sector. For this, it is imperative that a policy is designed for compliance by ail those who are dealing in food service provision, so children especially in their most tender age, and growing years receive safe, healthy, nutritious and hygienic meals as per their nutritional requirements. The focus is primary schools since early childhood is the ideal time to intervene and define dietary habits.
Currently, a policy does not exist for compliance by schools for school snacks provision, and there is a crucial need for such a policy if health hazards are to be reduced and the growing worldwide phenomena of overweight and obesity is to be tackled.
Jawaid,, S. (2017). Government policy recommendations for health and nutrition standards of school lunches in private, primary schools of Pakistan (Unpublished graduate research project). Institute of Business Administration, Pakistan. Retrieved from https://ir.iba.edu.pk/research-projects-emba/126
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