The European member states largely agree on the most important objectives of balanced school meals. All countries have passed school food policies, recognising the great importance of school meals for a healthy development of children and adolescents.
The Joint Research Centre (JRC), as the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, published a report in 2014 summarising nutrition-related content of national school food policies across the EU28 (including the UK) plus Norway and Switzerland. The aim is to provide information to public health policy makers, educators and research about the European school food policy landscape (1). The common objectives are to improve child nutrition, to teach healthy diet and lifestyle habits and to reduce or prevent childhood obesity (1). In some countries, additional aspects are particularly emphasized that are considered essential in the school catering, such as traditions and food culture.
All 30 countries have a school food policy in place and there is almost an even distribution between voluntary guidelines and mandatory regulations of (dis)allowed foods and drinks may in the school setting. The vast majority of school food policies (> 90%) have food-based standards for lunch (91%) and other mealtimes (94%), which intend to ensure a balanced selection of food. This is followed by portion size guidance (76%) and nutrient-based standards for lunch (68%) and other snacks (56%). Recipes are included in less than half of the school food policies (47%). Restrictions of certain beverages (mainly soft drinks) for lunch apply to 71% of the school food policies. Sweet treats and savory snacks are not allowed in well over half of the school food policies (1).
Measures for outcome evaluation are considered by about three quarters of school food policies: food provision in school is most frequently used at slightly more than half of all policies (56 %), followed by taking up of school meals (35 %), nutrition of children (29 %), food consumption at school (24 %), and financial viability of services (15 %). Other specified outcome measures are the engagement of local farmers (12 %), a reduction in health inequalities (6 %), and the support of local economy (6 %) and others.
(1) European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) (2014): JRC Science and Policy Reports. Mapping of National School Food Policies across the EU28 plus Norway and Switzerland
(2) European Commission (2015). School food policy country factsheets. Germany