Shifting school meals and schools for increased resilience

Schools are the place where many young people learn about healthy diets and a sustainable food culture if this can be promoted and experienced. The EU-funded “SchoolFood4Change” (SF4C) project builds on this potential, seeing schools and school meals as catalysts for systemic change on a broad societal level. The project will provide innovative solutions and tailored, locally adaptable good practices for schools, school meal providers, responsible public authorities, and policymakers, in line with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The focus lies on education and empowerment of children and adolescents, given their vulnerability to diet-related conditions and disadvantaged environments on the one hand, while, on the other hand, acknowledging their transformative power and ability to drive change.

To achieve the ambitious goal of enabling community-wide food system change, SF4C follows a holistic multi-level approach, based on the cumulated expertise of established European organisations and networks, sustainable food procurement and nutrition specialists, scientists, chefs, and dietitians. This involves the development of innovative and sustainable food procurement, the promotion of Planetary Health Diets and cooking, and the introduction of the so-called “Whole School Food Approach”, a defined framework for municipalities and schools targeting the achievement of child-friendly food culture and involving all related actors linked to the school environment.

More precisely, the project will translate theoretical findings into specific criteria for sustainable (public) food procurement and into a collection of concrete school menus – proving that locally adapted school meals can be healthy, sustainable and, at the same time, cost-effective. Following a “train the trainers” approach, cooks and urban food enablers will be educated on planetary health cooking to put theory into practice. By establishing a dialogue and direct exchange between schools, its pupils, and local farmers, SF4C aims to make the topic of sustainable and healthy food more tangible, particularly for young generations. Pupils will experience and understand the impact of sustainability and health-oriented changes along the whole food system chain.

The effectiveness of the above-described measures will be demonstrated through conducting an integrated assessment of socioeconomic, environmental, and health impact(s) of the developed menus and changed processes throughout the entire duration of the project. Many learnings and results will be made available to the public, while local and regional governments, as well as cities and schools, will be involved in the course of the project to support its replicability (also beyond schools) and the amplification of sustainable and healthy food culture.

The SF4C project started in January 2022. It includes 43 partners (including affiliates), who contribute to the ambitious target of reaching at least two million EU citizens, by directly impacting over 3,000 schools and 600,000 young people in 12 EU countries.

With a focus on children, who are the adults of the future, and strong trust in youth action competence, SchoolFood4Change strives for a long-lasting impact on the whole food system that will benefit both the people and the planet. Interested parties can contact [email protected], (Aoject Coordinator at, CLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability,) or further information or in case of questions. Additional information on the project and a detailed overview of all project partners is available on the EU Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS).

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