Schools’ health education in Portugal: a case study on children’s relations with school meals


Given mounting concerns about overweight and obesity levels in Portugal among children, policy strategies regarding health education through school meals have been implemented to respond to this problem. This article analyses the evolution of health education policies on school meals since the implementation of the democratic political regime in Portugal (1974) paying attention to the rationale behind these policies. It also examines how these policies, which have changed the contents of school meals, are being received by children, staff and parents in a primary school of Lisbon. The empirical material draws on qualitative methods (focus groups with children and parents, and interviews with the school and the city council staff). It is concluded that there is a change in school meals policies wherein, discourse wise, it is promoted a holistic view of health. However, in practice, it persists a
strong biomedical view of health where food is reduced to its nutritional value, overlooking other holistic aspects that are part of eating with others: social meanings, pleasure and fun, shared tastes and commensality.

Publication associated with Project Entre a Escola e a Família: Conhecimentos e Práticas Alimentares das Crianças em Idade Escolar.