From the Belgian chicken waterzooi to the UK popular shepherd's pie, school food can be healthy and tasty all over Europe. This is what 70 000 students, from pre-school to secondary school, experienced on 8 May 2015 when eating their lunch. To promote healthy diets for children, European Commission nutrition experts gathered recipes from school food professionals in all EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland. The 30 meals, carefully prepared by Milan's city caterer Milano Ristorazione, inspired a colourful booklet to promote nutritious and tasty school meals.
Proper nutrition promotes optimal growth and development of children and helps ensure adequate performance at school. With nearly one in every three children in Europe being overweight or obese, schools are key partners in encouraging children to develop healthy eating habits. The "healthy school lunches" initiative showcases Europe's work on promoting healthy nutrition for children in support of the EU Action Plan on childhood obesity.
"Promoting children's health is a solid investment for their future and for Europe's future. One of the best ways to do so is by ensuring that school meals are healthy and tasty" commented Krzysztof Maruszewski, Director of the JRC's Institute for Health and Consumer Protection.
The healthy school meals event took inspiration from the Expo theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". It also highlights an important aspect of European cultural diversity on the eve of Europe Day on 9 May.
The recipes for this European mosaic of tastes and colours were provided by the EU High Level Group (HLG) on Nutrition and Physical Activity, composed of national governments representatives. The chefs in Milano Ristorazione prepared a different meal for each of the countries.
Each of the 450 schools received a meal from another country as an alternative to the Italian dish. Passing from school to school through Milan, one could experience the smells and tastes from all corners of Europe in one special day.
Together with the booklet summarising the healthy meals, the JRC produced a series of fact sheets on national school food policies, available for download. These inspire and inform pupils, parents, chefs and all those interested in promoting health at school.