April 23, 2014

England replicates Finland’s school lunch system

Finland’s free school lunch system is gaining attention around the world.
Finland’s free school lunch system is gaining attention around the world.
Lehtikuva / Markku Ulander

Next autumn, England will begin providing free school lunches to children aged between four and seven. The inspiration behind the decision came from Finland’s nearly 70-year-old school food system. Also Scotland will provide free school lunches from the beginning of next year.

An adviser to the project has been the internationally renowned Finnish public health expert Pekka Puska. In addition the Finnish Embassy in London and the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Food Culture ELO have set up a school food network designed to encourage British people to develop their country’s school meals. According to the ELO foundation, the transformation of the English school lunch has been long awaited. 

The effects of free school lunches were studied in London between 2009 and 2011. A healthy, regular school meal improved learning results as well as children’s behaviour. These research results encouraged the creation of a more thought-out school food plan that is based on the Finnish system. 

“The phones have hardly stopped ringing here in Finland,” says Pekka Puska. “The free school lunches we offer all our school children are a unique phenomenon in the world. England’s school food plan has its own chapter dealing with Finnish school meals and health improvement achievements.”

Finnish school meals have also raised interest in other countries. 

“Our foreign visitors have always loved what they have seen and experienced here,” say both Päivi Palojoki, Professor of Home Economics Pedagogy at the University of Helsinki, and Marjaana Manninen, Counsellor of Education in charge of developing school food at the Finnish National Board of Education.

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