The school environment

Lunch meals should cover on average one-third of students’ daily nutrient requirements. Meals should follow the dietary guidelines of healthy eating for children and should be eaten in a friendly lunchroom, allowing children enough time to choose and enjoy their meal.

Skipping breakfast has been associated with lack of concentration and punctuality and lower academic performance in children. Eating breakfast help students to interact socially with their peers and reduce impulsive eating. Local farmers can be involved in breakfast schemes to provide local products such as milk and yogurt. 

Vending machines containing soft drinks and flavoured drinks should not be allowed at schools for young children. If available, they could be used to sell healthier options like water, milk, fresh fruit juices and low-fat snacks (e.g., fruit and vegetables, sandwiches and dairy products).

Most students do not meet the recommended FV intake (i.e. at least five servings a day) while FV consumption seem to decrease with age. FV schemes in collaboration with local farmers can promote children’s FV intake in school. Similarly, school milk schemes can promote milk consumption and help children who do not eat breakfast maintain their concentration at school.

Many children do not drink enough water while not all schools provide access to drinking facilities. Dehydration may cause lack of concentration as well as tiredness and irritability in children. Schools should ensure free access to water facilities and promote regular intake of water throughout the school day.

Both staff and students should receive education about healthy eating and the principles of healthy nutrition. The school curriculum should also include nutrition education and cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Nutrition and personal health
  • Food preparation, preservation and storage
  • Food and emotional development (e.g., body-image)
  • Food production, processing and distribution including sustainability and
  • The influence of sociocultural parameters on eating habits.

Involvement of Parents and Care Givers

  • Parental involvement enhances the effectiveness of programmes by stimulating awareness about food and nutrition so that the variety in the diet and the availability of healthy foods at home can be increased.
  • Children’s food preferences change through observation of peers and adults. Research indicates that children not only model their parents’ food intake, but also their attitude to food and body dissatisfaction. Many studies indicate that children reflect their parents’ unhealthy eating habits.

Involvement of stakeholders

The school community plays an important role in the development of sustainable food aid programmes. Collaboration between school staff and pupils, parents, non-governmental organisations and members of the local community are important to promote sustainable nutrition programmes at schools.

Local farmers and retailers (newsagents, food vans) should be encouraged to establish contracts with schools. Collaboration between farmers and schools has multiple benefits, from the provision of nutritious, seasonal and regional foods to field trips that allow children learn more about food production, sustainability and ecological issues.

Publicity via social media for school food and nutrition initiatives encourages the involvement of the local community and helps parents keep up to date on the actions taking place in school activities.

Programme evaluation

  • Programme evaluation should aim to analyse the extent of implementation, commitment to the programme, coverage, use of materials, environmental mediators, curriculum, parental involvement in activities, school food services, staff and community support.
  • For each intervention, specific indicators and methods have to be developed using peer educators, classroom observations or school meal observations.
  • Curriculum implementation can be evaluated by developing methods to compare teacher self-reporting classroom observations as well as school attendance, family involvement and obstacles to dietary change.