Good Food for Cities

GoodFood@School for Belgian pupils

May 26, 2023

1 in 5 underage Belgians are overweight and only 1 in 4 children in Belgium (6-14 years old) eat at least two portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Healthy food at school is therefore crucial to familiarize children with the origins of nutritious food and its providers, but also to develop behavioural patterns of healthy dietary habits through.

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Belgium, schools in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Leuven

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Encouraging a healthy and sustainable food policy in Flemish schools and familiarizing children with (the story behind) food and the people who provide it.

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From 2017 to 2019


  • Within the educational landscape, food policies do not yet explicitly involve sustainable food. Health, however, is a key topic. The Flemish Institute for Healthy Living and the Ministry of Education are committed to this.
  • There are hardly any legislative incentives for a sustainable and healthy diet at school, which leads to a narrow focus on price.
  • Schoolchildren should also be included in decision-making about food. How can we work with them to find fun ways to change eating habits?
  • What pupils learn in class about healthy and sustainable eating practices does not always correspond to practices in the canteen.

A solid track record

Rikolto in Belgium can rely on an extensive track record for making school kitchens more sustainable. Over the past eight years, we have coached institutional kitchens from various sectors. For example, we achieved excellent results with the restaurants of IKEA Food Belgium, the City of Ghent, the Federal government, UC Leuven Limburg, the University of Antwerp, Leuven University Hospital (UZ Leuven), etc. UZ Leuven was even awarded the Gault&Millau award for its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts.

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Our strategies

  • We set up coaching programmes with different types of catering kitchens serving school meals in order to develop innovative practices and models.
  • We link these practices to food education in the classroom.
  • We ensure that sustainable criteria are included in tenders and in general purchasing policy. We do this in our School Food Labs and with the support of the School Food Councils.
  • We incorporate a sustainable and healthy nutrition policy into the general school policy. For this we use the whole school approach.
  • Class projects are developed by our partner GoodPlanet.
  • We document our experiences and the lessons learned and translate them into recommendations for policymakers.

Experimenting in eight School Food Labs

School Food Labs are a crucial part of our ambition. We coach these pilot schools over the period of two years to help them make their nutrition policy more sustainable. One school is selected each year in each participating city. We work with a mix of primary and secondary schools that may or may not have their own kitchen, have meals provided by an external caterer, or have a canteen where children can eat their own lunch. We are currently supervising pilot schools in four city centres: Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven.

We will then work with pupils, teachers, management and parents to develop a sustainable food policy step by step. Not only in the canteen, but also in the classroom so that students understand why sustainable food is important. We focus on 10 sustainability commitments. In practice, this translates into serving more local seasonal fruit and vegetables, working on fair trade relations, using less meat and developing a full vegetarian menu.

And it's not only the students in pilot schools who are getting a taste of GoodFood@School. During the course of projects undertaken in 60 schools all over Flanders, classes are challenged and coached to give sustainable food a permanent place.

Scaling up from some to all schools

We ensure that experiences are shared between the different School Food Labs. In order to introduce these lessons to many more schools, Food Councils are being established in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Leuven schools. These working groups develop ideal strategies to involve all schools. They are composed of a mix of local people and organisations that have a link with education and/or nutrition. The aim is to develop a particular dynamic for each city, tailored to its schools and inhabitants, in order to find the best way to turn sustainable, healthy food into the new norm.

School Food System

In addition, at the Flemish level, we focus on players who have an impact on what's going on at school with regard to healthy, sustainable food. Both in the lessons and in the school canteens. We work closely with players such as the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, the Flemish Government and MOS to align our objectives and streamline our approach to schools.

We also set up learning networks or working groups with similar players (caterers, retailers, educational players) to encourage them to take initiatives that benefit healthy and sustainable food at school. A good result of the working group of caterers is the charter for healthy, balanced and sustainable meals at school. This charter already sets the tone in the same direction. In a next step, Rikolto will work with the signatories to further address the barriers and contradictions in current specifications.

Thanks to our experience in the GoodFood@School programme, Rikolto is familiar with the often difficult process of achieving a healthy and sustainable nutritional policy at school. With these initiatives at the Flemish level, we try to achieve systemic changes that make it easier for schools to work on a healthy and sustainable nutrition policy.

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Our achievements

  • School of Food Council West Flanders: a learning network will be established (to start in October 2018) for schools/school groups and cities & municipalities. They will actively exchange on healthy, sustainable food at school.
  • School Food Council Ghent: in Ghent, the School Food Council has made its mark within the STOEMP network. This in turn fits in with the city’s broader food strategy. In the School Food Council, all parties involved in food in education want to find ways to develop a strategy so that every school in Ghent has a policy on healthy, sustainable food.
  • Food Lab School Bruges: the Heilige Familie Technical Institute in Bruges organised GoodFood Belgian Style from 28 May to 2 June with special guest Seppe Nobels, a well-known Belgian chef. During the week, they served up a healthy, sustainable version of Belgian classic dishes.
  • School Food Lab Leuven: 18 pupils from the Paridaens Institute in Leuven have developed into real youth ambassadors for the GoodFood@School project. They organise numerous activities to convince other Leuven students of the benefits of healthy, sustainable food.
  • School Food Lab Antwerp: at the Maris Stella Institute in Antwerp, the challenge is how to bring sustainable food into a school that has to deal with a lot of poverty among students. Together with a group of experts, an ongoing project seeks to transform the canteen into an attractive place to eat, somewhere that encourages you to eat a healthy and sustainable lunch.
  • School Food Lab Ghent: Nieuwenbosch Humaniora has a boarding school for girls with an in-house kitchen. Steps are being taken to put healthy, sustainable food on the menu on a daily basis, despite limited time and resources. From now on, they will only cook with seasonal vegetables, and experiment with vegetarian alternatives to meat.
  • Rikolto is working with chef Seppe Nobels (jury in Grillmasters, chef Graanmarkt 13).
  • 20 secondary school classes from all over Flanders completed class projects. These 'GoodFood Challenges' actively engage the pupils on food waste, fair trade and other aspects of sustainable food, challenging the whole school around one of these themes.
  • A coaching programme for primary schools has been developed and will start in September 2019.

What do we expect to achieve by 2021?

  • 16 pilot schools will have completed an extensive coaching process as a 'School Food Lab'.
  • 60 schools will have undertaken class projects to challenge their school to work on healthy, sustainable food.
  • All schools in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven will have a policy on healthy, sustainable food.

Who do we work with?

 Fairtrade Belgium


Katharina Beelen

Program coordinator

Stories from the ground

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