Examining participation in relation to students’ development of health-related action competence in a school food setting

Dorte Ruge (Department of Planning and Environment, Aalborg University and University College Lillebelt, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Morten Kromann Nielsen (Research and Development, University College Lillebelt, Odense, Denmark)
Bent Egberg Mikkelsen (Department of Clinical Medicine, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Bjarne Bruun-Jensen (Steno Health Promotion Research, Steno Diabetes Center, Gentofte, Denmark)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Publication date: 4 January 2016



The purpose of this paper is to examine how students’ participation in an integrated school food program was related to the development of components of food and health-related action competence (F & HRAC). These components were understood to be the knowledge, insight, motivation, ownership and social skills that made students able to take action regarding food and health in everyday life.


Research was undertaken as a single case study of the development of an integrated education and health program called LOMA-Local Food (LOMA) in a secondary school in Denmark. Qualitative methods were applied, including an action research component, where researcher and teachers examined how students developed action competence. The program was based on a whole school approach with the aim of improving F & HRAC. As a way to obtain this, students participated in planning, preparing, cooking and serving their own school food as integrated in curriculum. The study applied the Health Promoting Schools’ (HPS) conceptual framework and the






ction and


hange (IVACE) approach.


Students who participated in LOMA educational activities became motivated for developing a food F & HRAC, which included components such as knowledge, insight, motivation, ownership, action experience, commitment, cooperation and critical thinking. Students developed practical skills related to food and health, when they were cooking healthy school food together with professionals and peers. The study also points to the importance of capacity building among teachers. The IVACE matrix is suggested as a relevant tool for monitoring forms of participation that contributes to students’ development of F & HRAC.

Practical implications

There were indications of how participation in LOMA contributed to students’ development of F & HRAC. The practical implication of this is that “setting” is very important for the success of food and health education initiatives. In this integrated approach the production kitchen and the dining hall are indispensable. Also the new organization of the school day and the introduction of a shared daily meal are important practical components for the improvement of the learning environment. The possibility of combining theory and practice seem conducive for students’ achievement of action competence.

Social implications

The current study is an example of how the IVACE matrix can be applied in order to plan, conduct and evaluate LOMA educational activities, which could be considered as a contribution to the HPS scientific community. It would be useful for other schools that intend to apply the LOMA approach. However, more research is needed, where teachers, students, staff and other stakeholders collaborate in an action research process. This could promote students’ health and support other initiatives regarding public health, sustainable development and democracy.


This research may have implications for the way that school food programs are developed and implemented if they are to make a contribution to students’ development of F & HRAC. Taking the political interest for research-based interventions into account, it is important that future strategies include teachers’ capacity building. Research is also needed regarding further development and test of the IVACE matrix as a method in participatory, health education approaches. This should be seen in combination with a renewed focus on integrated curricula models related to the on-going discussion on redesign of western school curricula.



Ruge, D., Nielsen, M., Mikkelsen, B. and Bruun-Jensen, B. (2016), "Examining participation in relation to students’ development of health-related action competence in a school food setting", Health Education, Vol. 116 No. 1, pp. 69-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-08-2014-0087

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