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Revista chilena de nutrición

On-line version ISSN 0717-7518

Rev. chil. nutr. vol.42 no.3 Santiago Sept. 2015 



Análisis de la calidad de los menús del Programa de Alimentación Escolar Nacional en una ciudad de Río de Janeiro - Brasil

Quality analysis of menus of the National School Feeding Program in a city of Rio de Janeiro State - Brazil


Daniele da Silva Bastos Soares, Roseane Moreira Sampaio Barbosa, Patrícia Henriques, Patrícia Camacho Dias, Daniele Mendonça Ferreira

Emília de Jesus Ferreiro Nutrition School. Department of Social Nutrition. Fluminense Federal University. Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (1) CEP: 24020-140.
Dirigir la correspondencia a: Profesora Daniele da Silva Bastos Soares
Department of Social Nutrition. Fluminense Federal University. Emília de Jesus Ferreiro Nutrition School. Rua Mário Santos Braga n° 30, 4° andar, Valonguinho, Centro, Niterói, Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil. CEP: 24020-140. Phone: + 55 2 1 2629-9841


The aim of this study was to perform a qualitative analysis of menus planned and executed in a public school of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). During 1 month school menus were evaluated according to the Qualitative Evaluation of Menus Preparation method by using variables related to food and lunch preparation. Data in relation to the total number of days of menus were evaluated. Planned and executed menus showed, respectively 20% and 26.7%o of presence of salad, 100% and 80% of inclusion of fruits and 0% and 26,7% of presence of sweets, respectively. Regarding the garnish, planned menus presented 50% of preparations with vegetables; however, on executed menus, this percentage was 26.7%. The main differences between menus were unscheduled changes that can negatively contribute to the quality of school meals. Reformulations in the planning of menus and more control in their implementation are suggested as measures to promote healthy eating habits in the school environment.

Key words: Feeding program; qualitative analysis; school meal; child; menu planning.


El objetivo de este estudio fue realizar un análisis cualitativo de los menús planeados y ejecutados en una escuela pública del Estado de Río de Janeiro (Brasil). Durante 1 mes los menús escolares fueron evaluados de acuerdo al método de evaluación cualitativa de la preparación de menús utilizando variables relacionadas con los alimentos y preparaciones de comidas. Se evaluaron los datos en relación con el número total de días de los menús. Los menús planeados y ejecutados mostraron, respectivamente, 20% y 26,7% de presencia de ensalada, 100% y 80% de inclusión de frutas y 0% y 26,7% de presencia de dulces. En relación con las guarniciones, los menús planeados presentaron 50% de los preparados con verduras; sin embargo, en los menús ejecutados, este porcentaje fue 26,7%. Las principales diferencias entre los menús fueron los cambios no programados que pueden contribuir negativamente a la calidad de las comidas escolares. Las reformulaciones en la planificación de menús y un mayor control en su aplicación se proponen como medidas para promover hábitos alimenticios saludables en el ámbito escolar.

Palabras clave: Programa de alimentación; análisis cualitativo; comida escolar; niño; planificación de menús.



Food and Nutrition Security (FNS); National School Feeding Program (NSFP); Qualitative Evaluation of Menus Preparation (QEMP); Rio de Janeiro (RJ); School Food and Nutrition Unit (SFNU); Meat Accompaniment 1 (MA1); Meat Accompaniment 2 (MA2); High Fat Content (HFC); Low Fat Content (LFC); Lean sauce (LS); Fat sauce (FS); Trans fatty acids (TFA); Food Guide for the Brazilian Population (FGBP); Santa Catarina (SC); Distrito Federal (DF); Fruits and Vegetables (FV); Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases (NCD).



In recent years, significant advances in the political field of Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) have occurred in Brazil, either in the reorientation of some policies and programs, new institutional arrangements and/or the allocation and distribution of resources. These changes appear to have produced positive effects on different dimensions of FNS; however, there are still historical challenges in the political field and others typical of developing societies that ultimately affect public policies. The obesity epidemic, the increased consumption of foods rich in salt, fat and sugar and the reduced consumption of foods such as rice, beans, fruits and vegetables, and other healthy foods, are among them (1).

The National School Feeding Program (NSFP) is the oldest and uninterrupted food and nutrition program in Brazil up to the present day and has recorded in its history, especially the last ten years, a number of regulatory changes that express the courses in the political field of FNS. This program shows some basic guidelines to ensure the FNS as the explicit support to sustainable development, articulation with family agriculture and the ban to less healthy foods (2-4). Therefore, NSFP can be considered strategy to support the promotion of FNS, affecting different dimensions of the food chain from production to consumption (5). In this sense, observation and analysis of the nutritional quality of menus planned and offered to students are of great importance because these aspects directly impact the ability to contribute or not to FNS through this program.

The Qualitative Evaluation of Menus Preparation (QEMP) is a menu management tool in the preparation of meals which assessment covers preparations, colors, preparation techniques used, repetition of food preparations and combinations, types of meat and offer of fruits and vegetables, as well as the characteristics of foods. Since the stage of menu planning is critical in the process of production of meals and will define their quality, the QEMP method can aid in the perception of nutritional balance and preparation methods aiming to make meals more attractive to students for a healthier consumption (6). School meal menus must be prepared by a nutritionist according to NSFP guidelines with the use of basic food, respecting nutritional needs, eating habits and local food culture (7). In this context, these menus may represent the possibility of contributing to a health-promoting contextualized food (8). According to Domene et al. (9), there are few studies that evaluate school menus under the nutritional aspect. Thus, this study was aimed at qualitatively analyzing menus planned and executed in a public school in the city of Rio de Janeiro (RJ).


A cross-sectional quantitative study was carried out to evaluate the quality of menus planned and executed in a public School Food and Nutrition Unit (SFNU) of a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro - Brazil during the month of November 2012 from Monday through Friday, except holidays.

Before the data collection, it was found that the month of November would be a representative period of the school year, due to the absence of the events and activities at school that could compromise their planning and execution of menus.

Planned menus corresponded to the set of four weeks of menus prepared by the technical team of nutritionists responsible for the SFNU in the city under study for 46 municipal schools. After four weeks, planned menus are repeated in all SFNU. Executed menus were considered those prepared by food handlers in SFNU taking into consideration the planned menus for the period. Thus, the menus analyzed in this study can be considered representative of the remaining SFNU of the city.

Local schools work part-time and provide two daily meals (collation and lunch). Lunch menus planned and executed in a SFNU were characterized by the presence of starter, main course, garnish, accompaniment (rice/beans) and dessert, and were evaluated according to the QEMP method proposed by Proença et al. (6) with modifications. Through this method, the following variables of planned and executed menus with their possible responses were analyzed (table 1).



Variables and response options used in the analysis of menus planned and executed in a
public school in the state of Rio
de Janeiro by the QEMP method.


The responses to some variables for planned menus were obtained from informations with the technical team of nutritionists responsible for the planning of menus. In the case of executed menus, in loco observation of the pre-preparation, preparation and distribution of menus was performed, considering the lack of preparation technical files in SFNU, to obtain the responses.

Daily data obtained from the analysis of variables were grouped on a monthly evaluation and tabulated in relation to the total number of days of menus analyzed.

The results, tabulated in Microsoft Excel Software 2013®, were expressed in percentage (%) indicative of the nutritional and sensory quality and presented in graphs elaborated through the Microsoft Excel Software 2013®.


Overall, 15 planned menus and 15 menus used in lunches for the same period in the SFNU of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro - Brazil were analyzed. Figure 1 shows the results of the evaluation of the quality of preparation of menus planned and executed in the school by the QEMP method.



Analysis of menus planned and executed in a public school in the state of Rio de Janeiro by
the QEMP method.


The planned and executed menus presented, respectively, a frequency of 20% and 26,7% of salads in relation to the total number of menus analyzed. Although planned menus had fruit in their composition, it was observed that 20% of menus did not have this food for dessert. Despite the absence of sweets in planned menus, the presence of 26,7% of sweets in executed menus by the offering of soft drinks sweetened with sugar was observed. In executed menus, color monotony was observed in 53,3% of preparations (figure 1). No food or preparations containing trans fats were observed (data not shown) and a small percentage of planned and executed menus presented foods source of sulfur (13,3% and 6,7%, respectively). In relation to garnishes, planned menus presented a percentage close to 50% of preparations based on hot vegetables and legumes (MA2), but in executed menus, this percentage decreased to 26,7%. About 13,3% of planned menus showed absence of garnish (figure 1). Regarding meat preparation technique, 86,66% and 100% of planned and executed menus, respectively, showed stewed, soaked, cooked, plated or grilled meat preparations (MP). In executed menus, it was observed that almost all preparations were LFC (93,30%) due to the use of LM and LP with or without added LS. In the case of planned menus, the classification of meat preparations such as LFC (66,67%) was lower than that of executed menus (93,30%) due to the greater presence of FM (20%) and FP (13,33 %) in the preparation of main courses. There was no presence of garnishes and meat preparations with HFC offered concurrently with sweets in menus evaluated (data not shown).


The Brazilian NSFP incorporates several guidelines of the FNS policy which aims to ensure, in part, the fundamental right to food in the school environment through different strategies (7,13). Accordingly, the provision of adequate and healthy food at school is established both as access expansion strategy as educational (12). Therefore, the school plays a key role in the formation of good eating habits by offering menus that can promote healthy eating habits (14).

Low frequency of meals containing vegetables in the form of salads or garnishes was observed. Importantly, the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population (FGBP) recommends 3 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables per day as one of the attributes for a proper and healthy eating (15). The NSFP establishes a minimum of 200 g / student / week of fruits and vegetables, but does not impose recommendation of consumption; therefore, it does not limit the offer to that amount. Thus, it is essential to establish strategies to expand the supply and consumption of these foods. One of them, proposed the NSFP, able to affect two major dimensions of FNS, namely, to promote healthy and adequate food and support sustainable development is the family agriculture (16,3). The data found for the presence of salad are similar to those found by Menegazzo et al. (12), who observed a percentage of salads of 16.0% in the monthly menu of Children's Education Centers of Santa Catarina (SC) - Brazil. Bandeira et al. (17) analyzed the reports of School Feeding Councils of Brazilian cities and states on the implementation of NSFP and found a low percentage of schools that reported the meeting of per capita 200 g / student / week.

The absence in SFNU of an exclusive sink for washing and cleaning of vegetables can be a limiting factor for the inclusion of raw salads in the menus of Brazilian public schools. According to Oliveira et al. (18), SFNU often have characteristics of domestic kitchens, especially with regard to the physical structure. Regarding the presence of fruit on menus, the lowest percentage was 80% among executed menus. On the other hand, Menegazzo et al. (12) found a low supply of fruits in their study. Costa & Mendonça (19) observed the presence of fruits in 100% of menus offered to preschool children in public and private kindergartens of the Federal District (DF) - Brazil. According to Robinson-O'Brien et al. (20), school meals should play a key role in encouraging and contributing to the daily intake of Fruits and Vegetables (FV) especially among children, which are considered a vulnerable group from the socioeconomic point of view. Unlike the findings of this study, Condon et al. (21), in a study conducted in 2005 with 699 grammar schools participating in the National Program of School Lunch of the United States, found a low supply of fruits and juices offered to American schoolchildren.

A positive fact found in our study was the increased presence of meat preparations with LFC. It is known that the excessive consumption of meat rich in fat has been implicated in increased risk factor for the development of Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases (NCD) and some types of cancer (22,23). Menegazzo et al. (12) found 12% of color monotony in the menus for preschool children, similar to data found on planned menus of this work. Similarly, Costa & Mendonça (19) found 13.3% of color monotony in the menus of a Brazilian public kindergarten. Increased color monotony of executed menus in our study may be related to unscheduled changes due, for example, to delays in the delivery of foods and / or adjustments made by the school management or team of cookers. It is known that color monotony has a direct relationship with the diversity of nutrients and acceptance of preparations (15).

The low percentage of meals rich in sulfur in executed menus can be considered positive since the oversupply of sulfur can lead to gastric discomfort (9). As for sweets, although no sweets such as desserts had been offered, sweetened soft drinks were present in 26,7% of menus. However, this value was much lower than that found by Costa & Mendonça (19), who verified the presence of sweets in 90% of menus offered in public daycare centers of DF - Brazil. In a study by Condon et al. (21), the offer of sweets was observed in 36% of menus of American elementary schools. Excess sweets may constitute a risk factor for the development of NCD, tooth decay and lack of intake of better nutritional quality food (24). In 2013, Longo-Silva et al. (25) assessed using the QEMP method menus of public childcare centers in São Paulo (Brazil) and showed insufficient supply of vegetables in almost every day associated with significant supply of sweets and foods with trans fat. The presence of sweets in over 25% menus associated with color monotony in over 50% of them suggests the need to review the acquisition of foodstuffs and increased supervision during the production of meals at SFNU. In other words, proper planning and control the delivery of materials, could minimize failures, delays or failures in delivery that end up by compromising the nutritional quality of menus. Problems related to purchases in public administration can also be a complicating factor for the execution of planned menus. Despite the existence of a team of nutritionists responsible for the management of school meals in the city studied, local schools do not have the daily presence of these professionals. In 2012, Paiva et al. (26) pointed to the importance of the presence of nutritionists in schools in order to control the quality of the food supply. According to Carvalho et al. (27), the nutritionist at NSFP in Brazil is responsible for a large number of schools, preventing the supervision and decision-making during the production process of meals in different schools. In addition, the Regional Council of Nutritionists - 4th Brazilian region indicated that menus executed at SFNU of the state of RJ did not correspond to planned menus (28). The absence of foods and preparations with TFA in the analyzed menus is a positive aspect in view of the role of these fats in the development of NCD and impaired the growth and development of children (29). These results are in accordance with the recommendation of the World Health Organization to eliminate TFA from the diet (30).

The main differences between planned and executed menus can be attributed to unscheduled changes in the delivery of foodstuff, municipal management problems at the NSFP and adjustments made by the school management team with a view to adjust menus to children's preferences or optimize the use of more perishable foodstuffs.

It is also important to emphasize that menu planning can be considered an educational strategy priority for schools. This instrument should ensure not only cover biological and nutritional needs, but also as a tool for food and nutrition education since eating habits are influenced by the school environment (31).

Therefore, the use of methods for evaluating the nutritional quality of school menus in Brazilian cities can assist in the construction of indicators to verify the contribution or not of the program to promote healthy eating habits at school. The QEMP method is a Brazilian instrument, and its comparison with international studies is difficult, which in general, analyze the menus from the quantitative nutritional point of view. However, it should be observed that this is a practical method that can be routinely used to control the quality of school menus.


The results of the evaluation of menus planned and executed in a SFNU in the city of RJ by the QEMP method can be considered a representation of its nutritional quality. However, for greater adequacy of menus, some adjustments should be implemented such as the increased supply of garnishes based on vegetables and legumes and salads in addition to the lower supply of sweets. Proper planning and control in the execution of school menus can contribute to promoting healthy eating habits among this population.



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Este trabajo fue recibido el 16 de Marzo de 2015 y aceptado para ser publicado el 31 de Julio de 2015.


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