Rikolto is one of the leading organisations working on a brand-new European project on healthy and sustainable food at school: SchoolFood4Change. The project was officially launched on March 10th, international school meals day.
For the next four years, 16 cities in 12 EU countries will test sustainable criteria for food procurement. Furthermore, cooks and canteen staff will receive additional training. Finally, a holistic approach will be taken to school meals, involving the entire school community.
SchoolFood4Change is coordinated by ICLEI, a network of 2,500 local and regional governments concerned with sustainable urban development, and brings all relevant school food actors to one table: from students, parents and teachers, farmers, chefs and canteen staff to experts on sustainable food procurement, dietitians, and local enterprises. That way, 3,000 schools throughout Europe become catalysts for changing the food system, which will have a positive impact on 600,000 young people.
The occasional health class combined with a healthy and sustainable food supply at school will not suffice to transform our children’s diets.
At the heart of SchoolFood4Change lies a triple action approach of innovative, sustainable food procurement and the food environment at schools, a train-the-trainer-principle to train school cooks, as well as the Whole School Food Approach.
Rikolto is one of the core partners and will coordinate the development and implementation of a European framework for a holistic approach for schools in terms of food: the so-called whole school food approach.
Katharina Beelen (Project Coordinator at Rikolto): “The occasional health class combined with a healthy and sustainable food supply at school will not suffice to transform our children’s diets. Our experience with the programme GoodFood@School in Flanders taught us that it takes a holistic approach. Diets should hold an important position in school policy to ensure that all children can experience good food in a versatile and, above all, consistent manner."
The Whole School Food Approach engages the entire school community to develop healthy and sustainable eating activities. “Students are involved in food education, gardening, preserving, and cooking food together as well as school-farm twinning. The opportunity also involves other actors from farm to fork, such as farmers, cooks, and local businesses.”
A second impactful corner stone is public procurement. “Cities and municipalities often have their own schools that they can guide, for example as a contracting authority of school meals. However, cities or governments can support schools who lack the capacity to take action. That is why we have started School Food Councils in our pilot cities Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven over the past few years. Those are local work groups that develop strategies aimed at a local, healthy and sustainable food policy at school. The results have been positive.”
Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven will create best practices that other schools, governments and cities like Copenhagen, Malmö, Milano, Vienna and Schaerbeek can implement.
We have started School Food Councils in our pilot cities Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven over the past few years.
Finally, through the SchoolFood4Change project, over 10,000 cooks and canteen staff will be trained in Planetary Health Diets, in line with the recommendations of the EAT-Lancet Commission. The project empowers them to cook school meals that are delicious and sustainable, both for students and the planet.
In four years, SchoolFood4Change aims to create a positive impact on the lives of over two million EU-citizens.
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The SchoolFood4Change project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.