School meals in Sweden © Jeanette Hägglund

The Swedish Food Agency has launched a pilot project to help improve its school meals system to become more sustainable, and to connect transformation within the food system to changes in the education sector.


Sweden has been providing free school meals for the past 70 years but according to the Director-General in the Ministry of Rural Affairs and Infrastructure, Mr. Johan Krafft, there should be more collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors to improve the school meals system.


“School meals are not yet fully part of the school’s education system and are not being effectively used as a tool with the potential to improve healthy and sustainable diets, agriculture, and local food production. We also have a lack of cooperation between actors in the school meals system. They need to work together, but they don’t to the extent that they should, and I am talking here about all involved—teachers, headmasters, caterers, chefs, parents, producers, and the students,” Mr. Krafft said.


He further explained that to reach the global sustainability goals, “we need to transform the entire food system, so that we can produce, buy and eat food that benefits both health and the environment.”


Given this background, the Swedish Food Agency, together with several authorities, non-governmental organisations, local companies, academia, and municipalities are exploring what such a sustainable system could look like – from farm to table and back again. The pilot project, “A New Recipe for School Meals” will work with the local school meals system and related sectors, in four municipalities in Sweden.


“This will support our efforts to address the school meals system from a sustainable and systems perspective to solve the challenges we are facing,” Mr. Krafft added.


Director-General in the Ministry of Rural Affairs and Infrastructure for Sweden, Mr. Johan Krafft speaking at the School Meals Coalition First Global Summit in Paris. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud.

The initiative seeks to create an opportunity to design and implement a more sustainable school meals system that is more responsive to current demands. It also pursues a school meals system that can contribute to social, ecological, and economic sustainability locally, nationally, regionally, and even internationally.


“Through the pilot project, our desired outcomes established in collaboration with relevant actors in policy labs include the development of new or revised national policy documents that will result from this experiment. The working assumption is that schools are a society in miniature and that a transformed school meal system can serve as a leverage for transforming entire food system through this pilot,” Mr. Krafft noted.


He explained while the school meal scheme had similar challenges to the large food system, it was a more tangible and smaller version that provided a more suitable space to initiate wider transformation.


“The pilot will help us to connect transformation within the food system to changes in education, local resilience, public health, and agriculture.”


According to Mr. Krafft, as of 2012, Sweden has a meal model which includes different quality aspects such as safe, nutritious, and tasty school meals served in a pleasant environment. “The model stipulates that a meal should also be eco-smart and contribute to environmentally sustainable development. To fully use the meal’s potential, it should be integrated into the core activities and be a natural part of education. It is also implemented in the national guidelines for meals in schools and preschools. This model is not only used in schools but also in elderly care and hospitals. The financing is the responsibility of local municipalities,” he further explained.


Currently, the implementation of this meals model varies among 290 municipalities, as guided by the Competence Centre at the National Food Agency. Mr Krafft emphasized the agency’s important role in promoting long-term sustainable change and to help further develop the school meals system.