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Food literacy programmes in secondary schools: a systematic literature review and narrative synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence

  • Christopher J Bailey (a1), Murray J Drummond (a1) and Paul R Ward (a1)



The current review aimed to synthesise the literature on food literacy interventions among adolescents in secondary schools, the attitudes and perceptions of food literacy interventions in secondary schools, and their effects on dietary outcomes.


The systematic review searched five electronic databases from the earliest record to present.


The studies selected for the review were from sixteen countries: Australia (n 10), Canada (n 1), China (n 1), France (n 1), Greece (n 2), Iran (n 1), South Africa (n 1), South India (n 1), Kenya (n 1), Norway (n 2), Portugal (n 1), Denmark (n 1), Northern Ireland (n 1), USA (n 17), UK (n 1) and Sweden (n 2).


Adolescents aged 10–19 years.


Forty-four studies were eligible for inclusion. Adolescents with greater nutritional knowledge and food skills showed healthier dietary practices. Studies found a mixed association between food literacy and long-term healthy dietary behaviour. Two studies showed an improvement in adolescents’ cooking skills and food safety knowledge; six studies showed an improvement in overall food safety knowledge; six studies showed an improvement in overall food and nutritional knowledge; and two studies showed an improvement in short-term healthy dietary behaviour.


Food literacy interventions conducted in a secondary-school setting have demonstrated a positive impact on healthy food and nutritional knowledge. However, there appears to be limited evidence supporting food literacy interventions and long-term dietary behaviours in adolescents. More evidence-based research is required to adequately measure all domains of food literacy and more age-specific food literacy interventions.


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