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Table 4 Employee interviews from the intervention site at follow-up

From: Mixed methods evaluation of an employer-led, free lunch initiative in Northern Ireland

Post-intervention interviews




Food handling and sourcing

Food handling practices of some staff members

‘The hygiene, I would be a very picky eater, and that’s just me personally, but on two occasions I’ve seen two people licking the knife and putting it into the butter. Now that does me, that’s me finished. […] Another thing, whenever you’re on the late shift the food is sitting out from 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock and flies, and we’re now coming into the time when there’s flies, I seen flies. The hygiene, just people doing things that I wouldn’t want done, that I would be easy put off, so, therefore, that would just finish me.’ Female

‘If it was just down to her, personally, I think it would be far better, it would be more of a success, I think. There’s too many people handling food and trying to ... not putting food away properly and not storing it properly and just that.’ Female

Deteriorating quality of food

‘They’re going for [value supermarket] now and the theory I think behind it is, they’re getting a freezer and they’re buying the deals, 2 for 1. Frozen pies from [the value supermarket] you don’t know what’s in it.’ Female

Food waste

‘Whenever the food court is going on, there’s an awful lot of food actually thrown out, so there is. When there is soup, and they don’t like soup, they’re not having it.’ Female


Good availability of food

Enjoy the food served

‘It’s been dead on, it’s been great. Sometimes I would still bring a sandwich, even I’m getting the food court, if I start that bit earlier, and sometimes I would say that I’m eating too much […] But, as I say, I’m happy enough with it, I think it’s dead on.’ Male


Service staff friendly and accommodating

‘There was nice looking pie there but I wouldn’t really call it healthy, but if you take a reasonable slice and not too much of the bread with it, pie and bread, you know, pie and maybe a side salad, you know. But the food did taste, [the lady serving the food] is actually doing a good job.’Female


Improved Facilities (new look and heating)

‘It’s always a bit cleaner. We had a wee bit of bother with the heat in winter there. Sometimes you were going in and maybe one heater, but they’ve got the heating on in it now, you feel more comfortable.’ Male

Social aspect

Encouraged office workers to have lunch in the communal eating facilities

‘We would have probably always ate at our desks before, which now we’re using the canteen, which I think is definitely better. It’s a bit more social and get away from the computer and everything, so I do think that’s a big positive that has come out of it, definitely.’ Female

Lack of education

Feeling of being misled at the start, expected to learn about healthy eating

‘There have been an awful lot of wires crossed. It’s not what I think it would be. We were really looking forward to it, to what we would be educated on […] to what we would be eating.’ Female

Expectations on nutritional quality and portion control were not met - disappointment

‘I don’t think they were changes for the good, so I don’t.A lot of issues. I think at the start I, with a lot of other people, got their wires crossed. I thought that it would be like an education on what you could eat. Say, for instance, if you took a piece of Shepherd’s Pie, you could have salads and such and such instead of that, but it wasn’t what I thought. I did try it for 6 to 8 weeks, maybe not even that, and I was eating far more, far, far more. […] Plus, to me, it wasn’t healthy food, it wasn’t portion controlled.’Female

Personal behaviour

Lack of control about personal diet

‘Well, to be honest, at the start I was pretty upbeat about it but whenever it did start I felt it wasn’t what I had signed up for. I had signed up for more portion control and a lot more nutrition available, but me personally; I think it wasn’t what was discussed at the start. […] I was used to bringing in what I had in my lunch box, eating it and that was basically it. But it’s all probably about will power, you know, and you have a line of stuff, a wee bit of this, a wee bit of that and before you know it I was probably eating too much.’ Male

Open to trying new food and would like to see a greater variety (this was reported by employees who didn’t take lunch and people who took lunch occasionally)

‘Probably the soup, I love soup but I think a variety would be good. I know at the start there was butternut squash or carrot and lentil, and they’re all things that I wouldn’t have ate but with tasting them here I now like them ...I don’t like eating carrots by themselves but when they’re pureed and in the soup they’re tasty. […] I would like to see a bit more variety, I just know that variety is definitely the big thing. If you’re going to pay for something you’ll want to be enjoying it. You don’t want to be, “oh here we go; vegetable soup - again!” that sort of way.’ Female

Repetitive food choices and reluctant to try new foods (found in people who took lunches)


Menu was not displayed (not knowing what will be served)

‘I probably would bring my lunch on the day, it all depends what was on [the menu]. Sometimes the menu is up and sometimes it isn’t.’ Female