Purpose - The aim of this paper is to contribute to the debate concerning health education and health promotion at schools, particularly with regard to food and nutrition.
Design/methodology/approach - Based on empirical data generated over the course of one year of fieldwork in three rural communities and schools in Ecuador, the study examines community participation related to the implementation of the School Feeding Program in rural schools in Ecuador. The conceptual framework for the study is shaped by the concepts of student and community participation within the Health Promoting School paradigm.
Findings - The findings help identify and portray different forms of community participation, ranging from a total absence of meaningful participation, through very limited, to consequential participation determined as community influence on the SFP practices to meet the community needs, priorities and systems of meanings.
Research limitations/implications – The notion of community participation at school can be seen to be better aligned with a socio-ecological health promotion perspective to include the community agenda too. The participatory HPS approach needs to consider that community participation can include the possibility of the community challenging the social order at school, and the educational policies and practices. When addressing community participation, counter-participating and non-participating can be also considered as legitimate forms of participating.
Originality/value – The study contributes to an understanding of policy implementation and the implications of a HPS approach to health education and health promotion in small rural schools.