About the project

The EPIC Food Study (Enhancing Policy In sChool food) is working with people connected to secondary schools to understand what improvements can be made to school food policy and systems in England. The research is funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

EPIC study recruitment video

We are a team of researchers with an interest in improving children’s diets. Between 2019 and 2022 we carried out research into the food on offer at secondary schools as part of the FUEL study. We looked at how schools followed the national policies for healthy eating. We have followed up the FUEL study with the EPIC Food Study, in which we aimed to use these findings to make recommendations for secondary school food policy and practice.

We have run workshops with different groups of people connected to schools. This included secondary school students, parents, school staff, caterers and others working in education or school food organisations. In the workshops we shared our findings from the FUEL study and asked for the participants' thoughts on the main problems with school food policy and practice, and the possible solutions. We then worked with a smaller group of representatives with an interest or expertise in school food policy to use the information from the workshops to prioritise areas for action on secondary school food.

Why is this research needed?

· Nearly a third of adolescents have excess weight.

· Almost half of 15 year olds have dental caries.

· Excess sugar consumption is a major contributor to increased energy intake, obesity, and poor dental health.

· Adolescents aged 11-18 years in the UK consume three times the recommended amount of their total energy intake from free sugars. They also consume less than the recommended amounts of fruit, vegetables and fibre.

· Pupils consume a large proportion of their daily dietary intake within the school day.

· School food standards are in place to ensure that food provided in school contributes to a healthy and balanced diet.

· However, secondary schools find it challenging to put some of these school food standards in place.