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.
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.
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.
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.
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.