2019 Nutrition guidelines and standards for school meals – FAO

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Required citation: FAO. 2019. Nutrition guidelines and standards for school meals: a report from 33 low and middle-income countries. Rome. 106 pp. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

You can download the Nutrition guidelines and standards for school meals from the original source (click here).

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Main recommendations from the report in the context of school meal programmes include the following: • School meal NGS should be well integrated with policy and legal frameworks related to school feeding, school health and other relevant areas. • NGS should be a central part of school meal programmes, as these have critical linkages to processes of the whole school, including food procurement, meal planning and food preparation, capacity development of foodservice staff, the food environment, community involvement and food and nutrition education. There are opportunities in these linkages that, if strategically exploited, can aid the enforcement of NGS and expand their positive effects. • The approach and processes followed to develop NGS will depend on the quality of data, time, resources and capacities available at national level. Technical cooperation between countries, partnerships with academia, development of project proposals, and technical support and capacity development from UN agencies can support development of quality NGS where there are resource constraints. • There is no one-size-fits-all model of nutrition standards for school meals, given that different countries and programmes have different objectives, target groups and possibilities. Internationally recommended nutrient-based standards may not be suitable in all contexts. • More emphasis should be placed on setting upper limits for saturated fat, sugar and sodium, especially in contexts where overweight and obesity are prevalent among schoolchildren, or when school meal programme modalities make use of industrialized snacks. • The focus of the food-based standards and the way these are framed in terms of food groups, limited foods and quantities, restrictions and promotion of inter- and intra-food-group variety need to be in line with programme objectives and context. Balance is recommended between the level of detail and flexibility of implementation. • In cases where the promotion of healthy diets is the main objective of school meal programmes, NGS should, as much as possible, be aligned with the principles, messages and food groups of national foodbased dietary guidelines. 11 • Inclusion of general recommendations on dietary diversity and nutritional quality and development of simple and practical materials breaking down food-based standards can enhance adherence to them and their effectiveness in practice. • Food safety is critical to achieve the aims of school meal NGS. The extent of the linkages and complementarity between standards in both areas should be well defined, and supported by a strong legal framework, capacity development to key actors and coherence among all relevant materials (normative, informational, educational). • NGS for school meals should not be detached from broader efforts to improve nutrition for schoolchildren (including interventions to improve the school food environment). There should be consistency between guidelines and standards for meals provided by school meal programmes and those to improve the food available (sold and offered) at schools. • Integrating food and nutrition education with school meal NGS helps establish meal times as learning opportunities and, at the same time, enhances effects on food practices. • Investing in monitoring and evaluation, including adopting adequate indicators specific to school meal NGS, is essential to determine needed changes, compliance and short-, medium- and long-term impacts. Monitoring systems should also account for periodic revision of NGS, according to emerging needs and changing nutrition priorities.

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