SchoolFood4Change supports the EU-wide petition for “A healthy meal for every child in every school” that has recently been initiated by ICLEI as a member of the Buy Better Food campaign. The petition invites cities and the general public to urge EU and national policy makers to spend public money more responsibly and supply healthy and sustainable food in schools to all children. As such, the petition goes hand in hand with the SchoolFood4Change objectives.
Diet related ill health now causes more deaths than tobacco or alcohol and accounts for 11% of the health budget in EU countries. EU child obesity rates are on the rise, with almost one in three children overweight or living with obesity. With food at school making up more than 50% of energy intake for many children, good school meals and food education have been identified as key, cost effective public health measures.
Peter Defranceschi, who heads ICLEI’s Food work, contributed, “We are very concerned about children in our communities being left behind. Food prices are skyrocketing and the provision of food in schools is patchy – with some schools not offering a school meal at all. We demand that the EU guarantees healthy food and education for all children, in all schools, across the EU, and we are asking you to join us”.
School lunches can not be taken for granted
Currently not all European schools offer lunch, which leaves children at risk of hunger during the day. Better school food would also help deliver the European Child Guarantee, announced by European Commission President von der Leyen in 2019 and designed to ensure that every child in the EU at risk of poverty has access to their most basic rights. The twelve countries engaged in SchoolFood4Change all serve school meals of some kind although the systems and type of meals can differ.
In Europe, local and regional public authorities play a key role in implementing sustainable food systems, and they have the mandate to purchase food or catering services (sustainable food procurement) for their institutions/bodies, such as schools, day cares, hospitals, etc. Public food procurement – one of three main areas the SchoolFood4Change consortium is active in – constitutes a sizeable and powerful market and opportunity to invest in healthier food systems. Each year, an estimated €82 billion in public money is spent on public sector food and this could be directed to sustainable producers and help tackle the worrying climate footprint of EU diets.
Opportunities to impact important policies
The European Commission has two key opportunities over the coming months to guarantee good food for all school children. The EU Farm to Fork Strategy has aspirations to, “determine the best modalities for setting minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement to promote healthy and sustainable diets, including organic products, in schools and public institutions”. The Commission also intends to “review the EU School Scheme legal framework with a view to refocus the scheme on healthy and sustainable food”. This scheme already offers financial help for fruit, vegetables and milk in schools, combined with food education activities, such as farm visits, however further improvements are needed.
Defranceschi adds, ‘The European Commission told us on several occasions that the time for inspiring them with concrete ideas was now. The #SmallPlateBigImpact Petition is about school food that is healthy for people and planet and about social justice. Combined with food education on sustainable food habits and local food culture, your support can make change happen’.
To read and sign the EU-wide ‘A healthy school meal for every child in every EU school’ petition, click here. The petition is available in seven languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Greek and English.
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