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EU initiative on sustainable school meals releases policy recommendations for innovation in food education


14 Mar 2024


Climate & Environment
14 March 2024, Freiburg, Germany

SchoolFood4Change (SF4C), a Europe wide initiative spotlighting the power of schools in transitioning to sustainable food systems, has published a set of policy recommendations outlining the need for at least one healthy and sustainable school meal daily and better integration of EU policies that affect school meals and food education. The recommendations have been released in light of the upcoming European Union School Scheme review, anticipated at the end of March.    

"We call on European Union policymakers to support Member States in providing at least one healthy and sustainable school meal per day in all schools in Europe. In our SchoolFood4Change policy brief, presented at the Belgian EU Presidency's Open Food Conference this week, we explain how we must recognise every child's right to healthy, sustainable food and nutrition education. Through the school food and procurement projects that ICLEI is involved in, we can see that healthy and sustainable school meals are still not a standard in many countries, despite the EU Child Guarantee and the Public Procurement Directives," shares Amalia Ochoa, ICLEI European Secretariat, Coordinator of the SchoolFood4Change project.

These policy recommendations are, in part, based on the SF4C Whole School Food Approach (WSFA), which acts as a framework to encourage innovation and improvement in school nutrition, while fostering a healthy, sustainable food culture in schools. SchoolFood4Change partner schools in the Czech Republic have now reached the bronze level of the WSFA framework, denoting the inclusion of healthy eating and sustainable food production & consumption in the curriculum as well as the establishment of an internal school working group on nutrition, amongst other activities.

Alongside the policy recommendations, an environmental impact calculator to help inform food procurement decisions is also under development. Furthermore, project partners have published hands-on guidance for purchasers (from schools and cities), outlining innovative criteria and cases for procurement, to get healthier and more planet-friendly food on children’s plates. As part of the project, students' health is also being scientifically monitored at a selection of partner schools.

“We want to assess children’s diet-related health issues and current sustainability challenges by asking ourselves how dietary changes in school menus translate into improved nutritional behaviours among students. In the end, we expect to find higher quality diets in children taking part in the SchoolFood4Change activities. These results will help us to replicate the SF4C approach on a larger scale," says Irene Sánchez Vidal, Registered Nutritionist and Research Technician, University of Alcalá, Spain.

SchoolFood4Change aims to encourage both sustainable and healthy diets on a broad societal scale by directly impacting over 3,000 schools in total and 600,000 school children in 12 European countries. Today - International School Meals Day - underscores the importance of innovation in school meals and schools’ role as catalysts for systemic, multi-actor change.

Read the SchoolFood4Change policy brief here.


The EU-funded project SchoolFood4Change was launched in January 2022 and aims to engage schools as catalysts for a transformation towards a sustainable food system. The 43 organisations from 12 European countries, coordinated by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, bring all relevant school food actors to one table: students, parents and teachers, farmers, chefs and canteen staff, sustainable food procurement experts, dietitians, and local enterprises. The heart of the project is a three-fold approach that includes sustainable food procurement, the implementation of planetary health diets and the holistic “Whole School Food Approach”. In the first year, the project teams have engaged schools and laid the foundations for a shift towards more sustainable food, by introducing the ‘Whole School Food Approach’ to participating schools. SchoolFood4Change is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. It started in January 2022 and will run for four years. Findings will be replicable within and beyond the EU.

About ICLEI Europe
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network of more than 2,500 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development. Active in 125 countries, we influence sustainability policy and drive local action for low emission, nature-based, equitable, resilient and circular development. ICLEI Europe provides members in Europe, the Middle East and West Asia with a voice on European and international stages, a platform to connect with peers, and tools to drive positive environmental, economic and social change. ICLEI Europe works closely with an extended network of local and regional governments and partners on a broad range of topics.

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Dorina Meyer
ICLEI Europe


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