School food global hub

FAO-WFP webinar explores how school-based food and nutrition education can enhance the impact of nutrition guidelines and standards for school food


On 8th December, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with the School Meals Coalition, held an online event titled "Food and nutrition education and school food to improve diets for life. Linking school-based food and nutrition education with nutrition guidelines and standards for school food", attended by more than 250 people.

In the framework of a joint project, FAO and WFP are developing a methodology for countries to design nutrition guidelines and standards (NGS) for school food. Complementary measures will enhance the impact of the methodology, and one of these is centred on school-based food and nutrition education (SFNE). FAO is promoting an action-oriented approach that foresees opportunities for direct experience and practice in real-life settings such as markets and school gardens to concretely influence the behaviours of children and adolescents.

"Our model for school-based food and nutrition education involves the whole person: the head – that is knowledge and understanding –, the heart – that's motivation – and the hands – that's practice and skills; and promotes the interaction with the social and physical food environments. The goal is to have "food competent" schoolchildren, adolescents and families that are well prepared to make use of their resources for their own nutrition and health" explains Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of FAO's Food and Nutrition Division.

Both food and nutrition education, and school food environment interventions, can have a positive effect on children and adolescents' diet outcomes; however, when implemented together, their impact increases even more. In food and nutrition, there is a strong reciprocal relationship between education and the environment, as one can magnify the impact of the other and vice versa.

"While we have a problem of availability and access to healthy food, sociocultural norms can also affect diets and food practices. School-based programmes can be entry points for questioning and challenging these norms and barriers. Through complementary interventions such as healthy school meals, nutrition education, and social and behaviour change, schoolchildren and adolescents can improve their diets, develop healthier food consumption preferences and practices, and model these for their families and communities", states Jutta Neitzel, Head of programme support in WFP's School-based programmes Division.

During the webinar, experts from FAO explained the action-oriented approach for school-based food and nutrition education, highlighting how linking it to school food nutrition standards can enhance its impact on the diets of students.

Experts from WFP explained the case of Cambodia, where they are developing a social behaviour change campaign to promote healthy and balanced diets, and curb children's consumption of unhealthy snacks. The campaign aims to reach important influencers of children's dietary behaviour, and will have a key focus on ensuring coherence with the school-based food and nutrition education components that are part of the national curriculum in the country.

Experts from UNICEF presented the upcoming FAO-UNICEF Capacity Development Initiative, which will be launched in 2023 to strengthen the capacities of national stakeholders to design, revise and evaluate country-specific and competence-based food and nutrition curricula.

A panel discussion followed, in which speakers from Ecuador, Finland, Ghana and Japan focused on experiences, challenges and good practices of their countries. Among the key points highlighted:

  • Japan has a universal school lunch programme for public elementary and junior high schools; given the very high attendance, mealtimes are also used as learning opportunities. The country also implements "Shokuiku", a food and nutrition education programme closely linked to the school meals. More here.
  • In Finland, the school lunch programme is universal and includes a variety of foods that children can choose. As only a fraction of children used to eat the recommended balanced school meal, the "Tasty School" food and nutrition education programme was introduced, resulting in an increase of students’ consumption of balanced school meals. More here and here.
  • In Ghana, school-based food and nutrition education should be further linked to school food. The school meals programme, for example, could be used as an opportunity to teach about food and nutrition. Teachers, currently not involved in the programme, and head teachers can play a key role in creating these linkages, but they need additional training to understand how to do so. More here.
  • In some schools in Ecuador, little time is given to eating food at school, which is also an opportunity of learning about the wellbeing of one self and of others. Increasing the time dedicated to school meals could enhance the opportunities for commensality, social cohesion and inclusion. More here and here.

The event closed with the appeal from a youth activist from Zimbabwe who encouraged governments to promote healthier diets, mentioning in particular the key role played by nutrition education, school food environments and the importance of involving youth.

This webinar was the fourth and final episode of a series of webinars focusing on the key areas that will complement the upcoming FAO/WFP global methodology for designing nutrition guidelines and standards. The recordings of previous sessions can be found here: