School food global hub

FAO-UNICEF hold virtual lab with teachers to revolutionize food education

40 participants from around the world join to learn and share their experiences


On 13th December, 40 teachers and school staff from around the world joined the lab “How teachers can revolutionize food education in schools”, jointly organized by FAO and UNICEF in the framework of the World Food Forum. FAO and UNICEF are promoting a holistic vision for school-based food and nutrition education (SFNE). At the beginning of October, FAO and UNICEF held a masterclass to popularise this vision among schoolchildren and adolescents, and encourage them to become agents of change in their communities. This intensive “teachers’ lab” followed the masterclass, and aimed at promoting the approach among teachers and school staff, focusing on the role that they can play in advocating for and implementing it.

The lab attracted the interest of more than 200 people who registered from around the world, but only 40 participants, selected among teachers and other school staff directly involved in implementing food education activities, could be accepted in order to keep the discussion focused. A wide range of reasons motivated participants to join: from those seeking ideas on how to start teaching food and nutrition education from scratch, to those wishing to enhance the impact of a subject they were already familiar with. Even more, some schools wished to complement existing activities, such as school gardens and food loss reduction projects, with effective food and nutrition education. Finally, many participants wished to acquire new skills to better engage their students and communities. Participants’ different motivations and diverse backgrounds made the exchange of ideas particularly meaningful.

The lab opened with representatives of FAO and UNICEF outlining the nature and purpose of their cooperation on school-based food and nutrition education. Experts then highlighted the need to transform food education in schools in a way that it equips schoolchildren and the school community with the tools necessary to make lasting improvements to their food practices. FAO’s innovative vision and model for food education aims to move beyond the traditional and purely theoretical approach of transmitting information about nutrition in the classroom. So on the one hand, it envisions real-life experiences and hands-on activities so that students can directly engage with food; on the other, it foresees interventions on the whole school food environment to ensure that it is coherent with what children learn and encourages healthy food practices.

Teachers and school staff often face limitations and constraints in fully and effectively integrating SFNE in their lesson plans. For this reason, participants explored ways to “activate” existing materials and other learning inputs in order to enhance its impact, for example by involving older students as role models, or by including meaningful activities as homework so that it reaches families and communities too. External food education experts provided examples of how they are putting this approach into practice, for example by turning meal times into food education labs, by integrating sense-based approaches to better involve children, and by including food education into Education for Sustainable Development programmes.

The presentations by experts were alternated by group work, so participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts, and work together to define ways to apply the innovative SFNE approach in their contexts. In the last group-work session, in particular, participants used a virtual board to share their commitments and ideas to advance food education in their schools.

“When organizing this lab, we had two objectives in mind: on the one hand, we wanted to provide tools to teachers and school staff, the end users of our school-based food and nutrition education approach. On the other, we wanted to offer a space in which they could share their experiences and challenges, and motivate each other in finding common solutions” explains Melissa Vargas, Project Technical Coordinator at FAO.

“This “from theory to practice” lab is a tangible sign that FAO has much to offer also to all those working at the grassroots level, potentially bringing a greater impact on the lives of many schoolchildren and adolescents around the world” concludes Fatima Hachem, Senior Nutrition Officer at FAO.

This session, held in English, targeted in particular audiences from the African and Asian regions; in 2022, the session may be replicated in Spanish with a focus on participants from Latin America and the Caribbean.