‘School meals go far beyond the plate of food'

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have launched a project to develop nutrition standards for meals in schools.

The project aims to improve the diet of school children and support the development of nutrition standards for school meal programmes.

A key part of the initiative will focus on national actors to integrate the new nutrition standards into legislation, while a new methodology will be produced to guide government stakeholders and institutions implementing standards.

FAO’s deputy director of the Food and Nutrition Division, Nancy Aburto stated:

"FAO aims to support governments and institutions in providing healthier school food to children and adolescents, therefore marking a step forward towards ensuring their right to food."

The "School food nutrition guidelines and standards for safeguarding children and adolescents' right to food" initiative is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

School meals are significantly important, the FAO reports, since, in many countries, these represent a vital portion of children's daily diets which should contribute to daily nutrition needs.

The project will also include guidance on food education strategies to enhance the present school food environment. School meal menus are aimed to be used as learning materials and encouraged to be turned into nutritious meals by adolescents.

Under the project, restricting the marketing of sugary beverages in school premises will also be promoted.

Through school-level mechanisms, the FAO and the WFP will enable students and parents to report non-compliance with nutrition standards.

Director of the school-based programmes division at WFP, Carmen Burbano said:

"School meals go far beyond the plate of food – they can impact education, nutrition, health, agriculture and food systems.”

Director Burbano added that for programmes to be successful, a next generation of school meal initiatives needs to be established. Ones that "contribute to sustainable food systems and ensure that children receive healthy and nutritious meals,” she stated.

The methodology and guidance package of the programme will be piloted in Cambodia and Ghana to assess usefulness before being adjusted and finalised through regional and global workshops.

The project is in line with the commitment of five UN agencies to ensure healthy school meals for every child by 2030. It also contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly towards zero hunger, good health and well-being and quality education.

Source: Agriland