Healthy meals in schools: policy innovations linking agriculture, food systems and nutrition

Healthy meals in schools: policy innovations linking agriculture, food systems and nutrition

This policy brief explains why a greater policy emphasis is needed on the multiple-win agenda that couples meals in schools with benefits to agriculture, education and nutrition. Evidence-based successes from diverse contexts are highlighted to illustrate what is technically feasible and economically viable.

Achieving a multiple-win outcome requires:

  • School meals that are consistent with current national dietary guidelines and formulated to increase emphasis on nutritious ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, pulses and animal products, such as milk. The meals should meet a significant portion of the nutritional requirements of school-aged children.
  • Policies that facilitate local and regional procurement of foods for schools.
  • Predictable national budget allocations to support integrated activities.
  • An effective, inter-sectoral mechanism for managing such food programmes, which includes careful measurement and monitoring of their efficiency and of their expected educational, nutritional and agricultural outcomes.
  • Capacity to promote change in the actual consumption of healthy school meals and to encourage children’s lifelong healthy eating habits. This involves multisector actions that link school meals with nutrition education, family and school community involvement, school gardening, and training and technical support to help schools achieve an overall healthier environment.
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