EU Science Hub

School Food and Nutrition in Europe: policies, interventions and their impact

Abstract: 
Childhood obesity is on the rise in Europe. Schools are considered a protected environment where children should learn healthy diet and lifestyle habits early on. To this end, Member States have developed policies to guide school food provision among other important aspects. At a JRC workshop entitled 'School Food and Nutrition in Europe: policies, interventions and their impact', participants from national ministries, academia, and non-governmental organisations reviewed and discussed the current state of European school food policy, assessed knowledge gaps and suggested promising ways forward. During stimulating discussions the participants exchanged ideas on recipes for success in the area of school food provision and how to move forward including monitoring and surveillance. Concrete examples in terms of recipes for success were: (1) the building of partnerships, (2) local engagement and co-creation (the co-involvement of head-teachers was seen as crucial) and (3) increasing the availability of healthier options. Support from international organisations includes the EU School Fruit and Milk Schemes, the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) and the Health Behaviour in School Children (HBSC) survey, the UNICEF Facts for Life programme, and the pooling of information resources and tools for health promoting schools by the SHE network. Moving forward, the participants highlighted various measures at many different levels from revisiting portion sizes to having benchmarking tools and comparable data. Monitoring and evaluation of school food policies and their implementation and effects are seen as essential and appropriate indicators were discussed.