Lessons learned from school feeding in Finland
School meals have increasingly been recognised as an investment in a nation’s future, and now more countries are becoming interested in organising their own school feeding programmes. The Finnish system of providing a free meal during the school day may help countries that are thinking of launching or improving their system of school feeding.
In Finland, central government, local government, universities, the private sector and civil society organisations all play a part in delivering the school feeding programme. Through this collaboration, Finland has developed an efficient, cost-effective and sustainable system that provides a nutritious, tasty and balanced meal for more than 800,000 children, pupils and students every day.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs together with the Finnish National Agency for Education have put together School Meals for All, a concise report on school feeding in Finland. It aims to answer questions on the special features of the Finnish system that have attracted global interest.
The report explains how the system of school feeding is administered and what kind of standards have been agreed for the meals and the mealtimes. It explores both the best practices and the challenges Finland has identified over the many years the programme has been implemented. The report also includes case studies on how the provision of school meals has been organised in five Finnish municipalities.
Finland’s story can help others
The parallels drawn between Finland’s history and the development of school meals may offer a chance for developing nations to learn from their peers. In the beginning of the 20th century, Finland was a poor country where 40 per cent of all 15-year-olds were illiterate. Charitable organisations had begun to organise the provision of school meals in the 19th century. School feeding was a social innovation of its time, and the act on the provision of school meals entered into force during WWII. Like many developing countries, Finland has had to struggle with poverty in the aftermath of war, with finding homes for internal refugees and with looking after war orphans. Finland's story could provide valuable lessons for them.
Both the practices of school feeding and the food served on the plates keep evolving and changing with the times. Today, school meals are continuously improved together with the students. Collaboration, inclusion and advice on healthy eating have all been incorporated in the national learning targets set out for school feeding.
The World Food Programme (WFP) helps the governments of 71 countries to organise school feeding for more than 18 million children. As the World Food Programme builds the capacity of school feeding systems, Finland’s long-term and comprehensive programme has attracted interest across the world.
School Meals for All online