This paper provides an overview of research on environmental considerations in school feeding programmes and a synopsis of evaluations of two school feeding programs (U.S. National School Lunch Program and Portugal) with emphasis on their environmental impacts.
The paper concludes that estimates of the environmental impacts of school feeding programs are needed to design menus and make policy recommendations, which, in turn, can reduce their environmental impacts and help students develop food preferences aligned with sustainable dietary patterns. Studies can be performed to better inform implementation of different components of new standards.
The following were strategies found to assist:
💰 Financial incentives, including local food procurement, could encourage school districts to offer beef less frequently, and provide plant-based meals on school menus.
📝 School-based curriculum that emphasizes food literacy (e.g., cooking, gardening) and marketing campaigns could ensure that menu changes are well-received by students.
Sourcing plant-based school meals seasonally and locally that use eco-friendly production practices such as organic food production and agroecology can provide environmental, economic, and social
🧑🍳 Finally, introducing plant-based school meals gradually, giving careful consideration of the seasoning, naming, and aesthetics of plant-based meals, and training kitchen staff in the preparation of plant-based meals are all strategies that can be used to overcome potential implementation barriers.
This article appeared in a member-only newsletter of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is shared with permission. The author, Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN, is a food and nutrition consultant based in Bogotá, Colombia. She has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University with minors in Program Evaluation and Public Policy. Her research and work experience lie in food security and sustainable food systems. Dr. McCullum-Gomez is a Column Editor and serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. She is also Chair-Elect of the Global Member Interest Group (GMIG) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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