Proudly presents: School meals in Finland
People in Finland are generally proud of the country’s long history of providing free school meals.
A good lunch is more than nutrition. It is something that gives pleasure, relaxes, refreshes,
maintains the ability to work and helps children grow healthy.
|School meals generally consist of typical Finnish foods. The role of school meals is to be a pedagogical tool to teach good nutrition and eating habits.|
Finland was the first country in the world to serve free school meals. Free school meals were introduced to Finnish schools as early as 1948. In Finland, each child and young person attending pre-primary, basic and upper secondary education can enjoy a free school meal.
Nearly 850,000 pupils and students are entitled to free school lunch. In addition to this, some 47,000 children taking part in before- and after-school activities get to enjoy a snack.
The role of school meals is to be a pedagogical tool to teach good nutrition and eating habits. Regular meals constitute significantly to children and young people’s wellbeing, learning ability and their healthy growth and development.
School meals generally consist of typical Finnish foods. A good school meal consists of a warm main course (dishes with fish, meat, vegetables; beans and sprouts as part of vegetarian diet); a side of vegetables (salad, grated vegetables or fresh vegetables pieces); bread and table spread; a drink (skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, buttermilk) and water to quench thirst.
Students’ allergies, ethics and religion are taken into consideration when planning school activities and meals.
The legislation behind the school meals
The common guideline is a free meal every school day. The Basic Education Act states that pupils
attending school must be provided with a properly organised and supervised, balanced meal free of
charge every school day.
School meals are an integral part of national core curricula for basic and pre-primary education, before- and after-school activities as well as schools’ student welfare services and food education. Local and school-level curricula define the central principles of arranging school catering.
The curricula also describe the objectives for education in health, nutrition and manners. The health-related and social role of school meals, the objectives of nutritional education and learning of manners as well as the recreational aspect of lunch breaks will be taken into account when arranging school meals and any snacks that may be offered during the school day. Pupils have the opportunity to participate in planning and implementing school meals, which fosters involvement and community spirit.
Meal breaks should allow pupils and students to enjoy their meals in a calm, enjoyable and unhurried manner. Breaks must also give pupils and students a chance to interact with others and take a break from teaching.
School meals in Finland (pdf)
The National Board of Education