Are school meals a viable and sustainable tool to improve the healthiness and sustainability of children´s diet and food consumption? A cross-national comparative perspective
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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There is little agreement among governments, institutions, scientists and food activists as to how to best tackle the challenging issues of health and sustainability in the food sector. This essay discusses the potential of school meals as a platform to promote healthy and sustainable food behavior. School meal programs are of particular interest for improving public diet because they reach children at a population scale across socio-economic classes and for over a decade of their lives, and because food habits of children are more malleable than those of adults. Current research on the history and health implications of school meal programs is reviewed in a cross-national comparative framework, and arguments explored that speak for the need of a new developmental phase of school meals as an integrative learning platform for healthy and sustainable food behavior. Nutritional, social, practical, educational, economical, political, and cultural perspectives and challenges linked to the implementation of healthy and sustainable school meals are discussed. Finally, the need for long-term interventions and evaluations is highlighted and new research directions are proposed.