"Our school cafeteria"

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Changed on: 13.11.2017

“Our school cafeteria” is a nationwide public health nutrition initiative of the Federal Ministry of Health to improve the food offered in Austrian school cafeterias. The long-term objectives of the initiative are the sustainable optimization of the food offered in school cafeterias in accordance with the “Guideline for School Cafeteria”, the promotion of client satisfaction and the maintenance of economic efficiency.

Evaluation of the initiative

The aim of the evaluation was to continuously monitor the quality of the measures rolled-out during the phases of planning and implementation as well as to monitor the overall efficacy of the initiative. The methodical approach was based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

During the evaluation period 273 school cafeterias participated in the initiative and nearly 200.000 students were able to benefit from the improved offer of food. The evaluation of the initiative showed that the optimization of the food offered in the cafeterias was well accepted by the students and that it resulted in a larger variety and a better visual positioning of healthy food. The majority of the participating cafeteria companies welcomed the initiative as well as the supporting measures (e.g. free of charge on-site coaching, marketing material, website www.unserschulbuffet.at). Cafeteria owners agreed that the initiative lead to an improvement of consumer satisfaction without negatively impacting economic efficiency. The supporting of cafeteria owners using standardized yet individually adjusted on-site coaching was identified to be the key success factor.

The initiative “Our school cafeteria” contributed to a significant improvement of the food offered in Austrian school cafeterias.

“Our school cafeteria” is a nationwide public health nutrition initiative of the Federal Ministry of Health to improve the food offered in Austrian school cafeterias. The long-term objectives of the initiative are the sustainable optimization of the food offered in school cafeterias in accordance with the “Guideline for School Cafeteria”, the promotion of client satisfaction and the maintenance of economic efficiency.

Evaluation of the initiative

The aim of the evaluation was to continuously monitor the quality of the measures rolled-out during the phases of planning and implementation as well as to monitor the overall efficacy of the initiative. The methodical approach was based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

During the evaluation period 273 school cafeterias participated in the initiative and nearly 200.000 students were able to benefit from the improved offer of food. The evaluation of the initiative showed that the optimization of the food offered in the cafeterias was well accepted by the students and that it resulted in a larger variety and a better visual positioning of healthy food. The majority of the participating cafeteria companies welcomed the initiative as well as the supporting measures (e.g. free of charge on-site coaching, marketing material, website www.unserschulbuffet.at). Cafeteria owners agreed that the initiative lead to an improvement of consumer satisfaction without negatively impacting economic efficiency. The supporting of cafeteria owners using standardized yet individually adjusted on-site coaching was identified to be the key success factor.

The initiative “Our school cafeteria” contributed to a significant improvement of the food offered in Austrian school cafeterias.

Making the right choice

Making the right choice - labelling systems under review

Making the right choice - labelling systems under review

Following up on the success of the initiative "Unser Schulbuffet (Our school cafeteria)", we tested whether symbol-based labels can increase awareness of the availability of healthy products. We took a closer look at a total of four labelling systems. Two of them, the logo "Bewusst Wählen (Making a conscious choice)" and the "traffic light system", made it to the practical testing stage. The pilot project "Die gute Wahl (Good choices)" was financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health using funds earmarked for preventative measures. It tested whether schoolchildren use symbol-based labelling models to guide their food choices and choose healthier options. The project also investigated whether labelling food products at school cafeterias is a feasible option for cafeteria operators as part of their daily workflow.

Process

Step 1 - Registering the range of products
All foods and beverages were recorded according to certain nutritional values.

Step 2 - Labelling the products
The foods and beverages available at the school cafeteria were labelled with symbols for approx. 4 to 6 weeks.

Step 3 - Survey
After the products were labelled, cafeteria operators were interviewed on the subject of whether the labelling system was suitable for daily use. School pupils were also asked for their views in focus groups and online questionnaires.

Results

In the absence of comprehensive educational measures, symbol-based labelling systems were shown to be ineffective. The introduction of a labelling system within the "school cafeteria" setting would necessitate extensive modifications to the symbol-based labels, education on nutritional and other practical measures. A general implementation and increased compliance with existing established guidelines (e.g. "Leitlinie Schulbuffet (School cafeteria guidelines)" is recommended. Making a healthy range of choices available at the school cafeteria can make a significant contribution to pupils' health.

See the final report (in German) for further details.

Information on the labelling systems under review here can be found under
www.choicesprogramme.org or www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/pdf-ni/fop-guidance.pdf.


School cafeteria guidelines

School cafeteria guidelines

[Translate to English:] Bild: Leitlinie Schulbuffet

The "Leitlinie Schulbuffet (School cafeteria guidelines)" provides nutritional recommendations for a healthy range of food and beverages to be made available at Austrian school cafeterias and was developed by experts in the fields of nutrition and public health, including the organisation AGES, relevant members of the public and the Austrian National Committee for Nutrition. The "School cafeteria guidelines" were published by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health in 2011.

The guidelines include recommendations for eleven product categories, such as beverages and baked goods, as well as tips on how to implement them. Quantity ratios and product presentation are both important aspects of compiling a healthy ‘shopping basket’. No bans were implemented, which means that sweets and puddings for example are permitted in school cafeterias, albeit in smaller amounts. Healthy products are to be given higher priority in presentation to make them visible to pupils.

 

Our school cafeteria

Our school cafeteria

[Translate to English:] Logo "Unser Schulbuffet"

"Unser Schulbuffet (Our school cafeteria)" is a nationwide initiative carried out by the Austrian Ministry of Health in cooperation with AGES to improve break-time snack and lunch options at schools. The initiative is aimed at all cafeteria operators who wish to improve their range of products. They receive practical support from a mobile team of coaches in providing a healthy range of food and beverages in line with the "School cafeteria guidelines", as well as other accompanying measures.

In the years 2011-2014, cafeterias at over 300 locations throughout Austria were supported within the framework of the "Our school cafeteria" initiative.  Over 250 locations fulfilled most of the recommendations listed in the "School cafeteria guideline", earning them an award from the mobile team.  A healthy range of options was provided to over 200,000 pupils.

To guarantee the long-term availability of an "award-winning" range of products, the successful cafeteria operators had the option of undergoing a re-evaluation process and competing for the award for their school cafeteria again in a year's time. Almost 170 operators received the award for the second time in the years 2011-2014. There were also a few especially committed cafeteria operators who participated in the initiative from the very outset and won the award for the third time.

Evaluation

In the years 2012 and 2013, the "Our school cafeteria" initiative was subject to continuous evaluation by experts from the organisation AGES (Department of Integrative Risk Analysis, Data and Statistics). The goal of this evaluation was to reflect and - wherever necessary - improve the quality of the measures roll-out during the planning and implementation stages and to verify the success of the initiative. The evaluation results showed that the initiative was assessed positively by an overwhelming majority (93%) of cafeteria operators. They stated that the main factors for success were the professional support provided by the mobile coaches and the focus on the target group "cafeteria operators". Maintaining the economic viability of the cafeteria operations was another important element. The changeover of the product range to comply with the "School cafeteria guideline" led to a restructuring of turnover within the product range rather than a loss of turnover. The majority of cafeteria operators stated that a school cafeteria in line with the recommendations listed in the "School cafeteria guidelines" is economically viable in the long term.

Efforts to create a network of cafeteria operators in the form of annual conferences and regional get-togethers and to forge links with other partners within the schools were deemed successful.

The evaluation of the "Our school cafeteria" initiative showed that it is possible to improve the food and beverages on offer while maintaining economic viability and customer satisfaction.

The initiative continues...

Since mid-2014, mobile advisory services have continued to operate in some states in cooperation with regional partners. See the Ministry of Health website: "Unser Schulbuffet (Our school cafeteria)".


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