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Call to action: Demand healthy food in all EU schools

A quarter of EU children are now at risk of poverty or social exclusion and hunger is preventing children across Europe from learning and leading healthy, happy lives.

Credit: LightField Studios | Shutterstock

Credit: LightField Studios | Shutterstock

The Buy Better Food coalition, which represents children, farming groups and public caterers across Europe, is urging the EU Commission to act as the poverty crisis deepens. The group is calling for every child in the EU to be offered a healthy, sustainably produced school lunch and for all pupils to be taught about food and nutrition.

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Small plate, big impact

EU child obesity rates are on the rise, with almost 1 in 3 children (29% of boys and 27% of girls) overweight or living with obesity. Diet related ill health now causes more deaths than tobacco or alcohol and costs 11% of the health budget for EU countries. With food at school making up more than 50% of energy intake for many pupils, good school meals and food education have been identified as key, cost effective public health measures.

Currently not all EU schools offer lunch, which leaves children at risk of hunger during the day. Better school food would help deliver the European Child Guarantee, announced by EU Commission president in 2019 and designed to ensure that every EU child at risk of poverty has access to their most basic rights.

Public food procurement constitutes a sizeable and powerful market and opportunity to invest in healthier food systems. Each year, an estimated €82 billion 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.

The European Commission has two key opportunities over coming months to guarantee good food for all schoolchildren. 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 of the EU school scheme legal framework with a view to refocus the scheme on healthy and sustainable food”

Sign our petition demanding healthy, sustainable school food for all EU children

Peter Defranceschi,  Head Global Food Program at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) said:

"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"

Sustain is part of the Buy Better Food campaign; a coalition of pan-European nonprofit organisations calling for public food procurement rules that work for the environment, consumers, and workers, and provide healthy food to European citizens in schools, hospitals and care homes.

If you are an organisation or place engaged in improving food quality and access in Europe, please join the Campaign, follow us on twitter or find out more here.

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Published 16 Sep 2022

Climate change and nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

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