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School food

School children in El Salvador © FAO

Food and nutrition in schools

School children need a good diet in order to develop and grow well, be protected from disease and have the energy to study, learn and be physically active. They also need knowledge and skills to make good food choices and develop eating habits that will help keep them healthy throughout their lives. Through activities such as school gardens, school meals and education in food and nutrition, children, adolescents, and their families, can improve their nutritional well-being and develop good, life-long eating habits.

FAO’s role in schools

FAO recognizes school children as a priority for nutrition interventions and views the school as an ideal setting for teaching basic skills in food, nutrition and health.

In many communities, schools may be the only place where children acquire these important life skills.

Schools reach children at an age when food and health habits are being formed; they also reach families, the school community and can be a channel for wider community participation.

Promoting nutrition through schools can create benefits that extend beyond the classroom and playground to improve the health and nutritional well-being of households and communities.

Food and nutrition education

FAO promotes a “whole school” approach to nutrition education, in which classroom learning is linked with practical activities, reinforced by a nutrition and health friendly school environment and involves the participation of all school personnel, families and the community.

Educational activities that complement each other, including classroom lessons, hands-on opportunities for students to experience and practice and be actively involved in learning about food, diets and health, are integral parts of effective school-based nutrition education.

This comprehensive approach helps create positive attitudes and skills and helps pave the way for carrying healthy habits beyond school and into adulthood.

School gardens

FAO encourages and supports schools to create gardens as learning platforms to promote better nutrition and good diets, develop life skills and increase environmental awareness.

Learning” gardens that produce a variety of nutritious foods and include educational goals can help students, school staff and families make the connection between growing food and good diets. Gardening activities, combined with eating the foods produced and learning about healthy dietary practices, can help promote better nutrition.

With a focus on both practical activities and classroom learning, school gardens can contribute to nutrition and food security.  

School food

Providing healthy meals and snacks in schools improves children’s health and nutritional well-being, enabling them to grow well and learn well.

In food insecure communities, school feeding programmes help fight malnutrition and help keep children in school. They can also improve incomes and food security when locally produced foods are supplied to the school.

FAO supports schools to ensure that all foods, meals and snacks available at school are nutritionally adequate and appropriate for the school-age child. It also supports including education and training for all those involved in providing school foods.

When combined with nutrition education, school food can directly improve student’s health and nutrition while helping them develop good eating habits.