08 SES 12, The Role of Food and Sleep in Education and Health Promotion
This qualitative research contributes to discussions on critical approaches to health
promotion and health education. The aim of the research was to explore the opportunities and drawbacks of considering the school meal as a site for health promotion and health education in small rural schools of a middle income country such as Ecuador. The study set out to understand possible ways in which the policy documents help to shape the school meal program; the meanings that parents and teachers give to the small rural school meal, and their perspectives on why they organise and execute the meal the way they do; and, possible implications of the school meal for health education and learning about health, including how teachers may pedagogically address the subject of food and nutrition. In this paper, the focus is on the main contributions of the study as a whole regarding new ways of understanding the limits or potential of the health promoting school approach in the field of nutrition education; the implications of deciding or not in favor of a pedagogical meal within a critical health education approach; and the implications of understanding the school-home relationships differently –including a more direct participation of parents and the wider school community at school– in a health promoting school approach.
The study used multiple case study methodology, mainly based on participant observations at school and semi-structured interviews with teachers and parents. Using a constructivist approach, the study reconstructs the school meal in order to try to understand its meanings. Based on Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, the school meal is viewed as a learning experience and is approached as an interrelation of social interactions and interactions with material resources that influence, while they are also influenced through, this interrelation. This study was conducted for twelve continuous months in three small rural hamlets of Ecuador, each located in a different parish with poverty levels ranging from 58.2% to 85.4%.
The study finds that it could be useful for studies on the Health Promoting School approach to, first, analyse the implications of how the school meal is planned and implemented for the educational objectives and learning environment, and, second, to explore the potential and drawbacks of a pedagogical meal. The study recommends further research on students’ perceptions and perspectives, particularly in relation to school food and nutrition education policy and practice. In addition, a better understanding of how community-oriented empowerment may be conceptualised within health promoting school theory is also lacking. Finally, more research is needed on how school-community relationships or mechanisms of participation may support a critical approach to health education.
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