CORDIS - Forschungsergebnisse der EU

Shifting school meals and schools into a new paradigm by addressing public health and territorial, social and environmental resilience

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SchoolFood4Change (Shifting school meals and schools into a new paradigm by addressing public health and territorial, social and environmental resilience)

Berichtszeitraum: 2022-01-01 bis 2023-06-30

Change is urgently needed. No European country is on track to meet its obesity reduction goals for 2025 and obesity rates among young people continue to rise. Children today are forming lifelong eating habits, but we must take advantage of the window of opportunity that is given during childhood. School food programmes have the potential of exposing school-age children to nutritious, regional and delicious meals from early on, enabling them to become change agents and to carry the message into their homes. At the same time, agriculture accounts for one-third of GHG emissions. It is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss and deforestation, increasing the sustainability crisis we face. By bringing together the various elements of planetary and human health, SchoolFood4Change (SF4C) addresses two of our biggest challenges simultaneously.
SF4C will create a shift to both sustainable and healthy diets on a broad societal scale by directly impacting over 3,000 schools and 600,000 school children in 12 EU countries, providing a replicable good practice across the EU and beyond. All children go to school and are vulnerable to diet-related conditions and disadvantaged environments. SF4C views schools as catalysts for systemic change for the shift to sustainable and healthy diets of all EU citizens.
The 43 partners involved in SF4C follow a holistic multi-level approach: this entails the development of innovative/sustainable food procurement criteria/methods, the reflection of planetary health diets and cooking in school meals, training school chefs to be agents of change, and the introduction of a Whole School Food Approach (WSFA). The latter is a framework for municipalities and schools that aims to create a holistic food culture and bring food to the heart of the school mission. However, it’s not just about food provision, the school food environment plays an important role in children’s consumption patterns. The framework offers distinct criteria, grouped into four pillars (education, school meals, policy, and school environment) and clustered into three levels of ambition (bronze, silver, gold).
The rationale of the WSFA, and the red thread which runs through SF4C, is that no child is left behind when it comes to nutrition at school. This applies to both feeding and education. Consequently, addressing food insecurity and promoting inclusive and equitable learning environments inherently form part of the WSFA approach developed by the project. This is in line with the SDGs, the objective of the EU Child Guarantee, and the aims of the Farm to Fork strategy.
Ambitious targets and innovative food procurement guidelines developed by SF4C will help guide cities and encourage cooperation between small-scale farmers, schools, local food suppliers and caterers in providing sustainable and healthy meals. Targeted guidance is addressed to school chefs which ensure that both cities and schools are fully equipped with the tools needed to implement changes in how school food is provided and consumed.
The first 18 months of SF4C concentrated on defining healthy and sustainable diets, impact indicators, and evaluating its promotion of healthy school diets. The UAH research team conducted a literature review to define diets, involving all partners. Indicators for intervention impacts were established, including those to measure WSFA progress. A mapping methodology and data collection guide were developed for school food systems. An assessment tool for environmental impact and a Social Return on Investment (SROI) method were devised. Health impact and sensory perception surveys were also designed. A beta version of the WSFA methodology was developed and has begun to be piloted in the first 120 schools recruited. This has gone together with coaching and capacity building programmes designed to support all involved stakeholders from schools and city/region administrations. Collaborations involved peer exchanges, and feedback facilitated knowledge sharing. Focus was on creating healthier, sustainable school food environments, addressing challenges, involving vulnerable groups, and showcasing innovative approaches. Gender-related research was also conducted with results expected during the next project phase.
The groundwork for the training of school chefs on planetary health diets was laid with identification of trainers and ‘urban food enablers’ in each of the participating cities and regions, and content developed for the guidance materials focusing on sustainable meals in schools. A team of Youth Food Ambassadors is currently being recruited to boost outreach activities in the 12 focus countries. WP5 focused on defining procurement criteria and models on Innovative, Sustainable and Healthy Food Procurement which are compiled in a guide for public procurers with good practice examples.
SF4C’s approach to Outreach, Replication and International Cooperation has been a multifaceted effort that aims to create a lasting transformation in school food systems by leveraging effective communication, replication, and strategic partnerships. This has been complemented by targeted actions with EU institutions, projects and initiatives.
• As research shows, children can influence their family habits, and young people impressively demonstrated their transformative power on climate action. In this way, SF4C can impact at least two million EU citizens and will engage with other actors, such as elderly care homes and hospitals to test the replicability of the SF4C triple approach outside schools.
• The project has begun demonstrating that the SF4C triple approach is viable on the ground across EU and beyond, and will provide evidence that it can be cost-effective and does not necessarily lead to additional costs (e.g. cost reduction through increased plant-based food and smart market engagement models; social return on investment assessment)
• Evidence for the effective shift to sustainable healthy diets will be provided through an impact assessment on dietary, behavioural shifts and body weight and image in four cities, namely Madrid, Vienna, Umeå (or the region of Dordogne) and Milan - in approximately 6,400 children and young people aged 0-18, including oversampling the most deprived and vulnerable children groups.
• SF4C is not just about the most advanced cities in the EU. The project comprises an impact-driven high number of strong partners (33 partners - 16 cities/regions, 10 Linked Third Parties, 19 Replication Cities) and extending to Africa, Australia and Latin America but it can also score in terms of balanced advancement level: whilst cities such as Copenhagen, Vienna, Ghent and Malmö are leading European cities on sustainable food procurement, the partners from Czech Republic and Slovakia are leading on the WSFA, which is a novel concept in other parts of Europe.
• The SF4C triple approach is not just viable and cost-effective, it is also designed for rapid uptake, implementation and roll-out across all EU countries and beyond: WSFA in 12 months, sustainable healthy food procurement in 12-24 months.
• For communication, dissemination, outreach and uptake SF4C has outstanding actors: WWF, Slow Food, ICLEI (World and Europe Secretariats), City of Milan (Milan Urban Food Policy Pact), Vienna (Chair: European Network Organic Cities), Lyon (Délice Network), European Green Capitals, Nuremberg’s Biofach, and the initiatives of other frontrunner cities.