Transformative power of school meals

News 2023-12-18 at 16:25
Kouluruokakilpailu 2016
School meal competition in Finland, 2016.


The COP28 UAE has elevated the importance of food system solutions in addressing the climate crisis. At COP28, the school meal consortium unveiled a white-paper showcasing the global impact that school meals can have in fostering sustainability. The Just food consortium contributed to this paper by highlighting some study results on engaging students to the development of sustainable school meals in Finland.

The paper highlights that school meals play a crucial role in shaping healthy diets and lifelong dietary preferences. By incorporating targeted education on environmentally conscious food choices, these meals can empower a climate-smart next generation.

Furthermore, school meals contribute significantly to government food procurement, representing a global market of around USD 48 billion annually. Local procurement can reduce emissions by shortening food chains, promoting sustainability, and minimizing the need for internationally imported food.

Governments are considered key drivers that can accelerate the process by making immediate policy changes for planet-friendly school meals. This includes adopting diverse, sustainable menus, clean cooking with renewable energy, waste reduction, and holistic food education programs.

In the long term, governments can favour sustainable farming systems, driving demand for planet-friendly agricultural practices and capacity building for smallholder farmers.

"School meals can accelerate the fight against climate change and foster the development of a sustainable food system. They support children and young people in adopting sustainable and healthy eating habits, encouraging the transition to a climate-conscious future. Responsible food procurement by schools also contributes to building a more sustainable food system" - Minna Kaljonen, Project lead of Just food and author of the white-paper


Explore the full paper online: LSHTM Research Online

Discover more about Finnish school meals in this video: (1) Sustainable school meals - a Finnish recipe - YouTube

More information:

Minna Kaljonen, Principal Investigator of Just food project, Research Professor, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE,

  • Print page