9 March 2023

ICLEI Europe calls on European Commission to ensure healthy meals are available in all schools

On the occasion of International School Meals Day, ICLEI Europe urges the European Commission to produce a framework supporting local and regional governments in the sustainable procurement of food. Alongside over 280 civil society and trade organisations, ICLEI Europe signed a letter appealing to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to submit a comprehensive proposal for the upcoming EU Sustainable Food Systems Law, which will play a pivotal role in ensuring healthy meals are available in schools and other public canteens.

Through its involvement in the Buy Better Food Campaign and SchoolFood4Change, ICLEI Europe underscores local and regional governments’ role in providing meals and food education for children in schools and daycares, in addition to highlighting the importance of food procurement as a catalyst for the sustainable transformation of the food system. A recent petition from the Buy Better Food Campaign advocating healthy school meals for all children has garnered over 10,000 signatures.

Last year, the Buy Better Food Campaign launched the Sustainable Food Procurement Manifesto, which outlines minimum standards for public canteens across the EU as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy. The Manifesto shares seven criteria for the sustainable procurement of food: healthy food; organic and other agro-ecological products; support for small-scale; climate action; social economy and labour rights; fair trade; and animal welfare standards. Current endorsements of the manifesto include the Food Council of Valencia (Spain), the Veneto Region (Italy) and the city of Brasov (Romania), as well as civil society organisations such as Eurogroup for Animals, European Public Health Alliance, Slow Food Europe and more. ICLEI invites more local and regional governments to endorse this manifesto.

Every year, European organisations and institutions use International School Meals Day to raise awareness about the importance of providing healthy, sustainably produced meals to all children. The ongoing cost of living crisis reinforces the need for access to affordable, healthy food as does the fact that one in three children in Europe is obese or overweight. The current revision of the EU school scheme, which supports food education and the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk to school children, also constitutes another opportunity for the Commission to advance the provision of healthy, sustainable food and food education, in line with the 2021 Council Recommendation on the EU Child Guarantee.

When it comes to healthy eating behaviours and knowledge of nutrition, schools have the power to influence systemic and multi-actor change. As those responsible for administering school cafeterias, local and regional governments require adequate support and guidelines to ensure that healthy, sustainably sourced school meals are available to all children.

Learn more about ICLEI Europe’s work to bring about a sustainable food system transformation here.