Providing effective access to adequate nutrition for all children is one of the objectives of the European Child Guarantee. The EPIC research note aims to inform potential policy action on this goal by exploring the available evidence on school meals provisions.
In this research note, school meals are defined as any food provisions offered to children by early education and care centres (ECEC), schools or community organisations. This can include school lunches, breakfasts, or snacks.
The research note reviews findings from 28 studies to investigate the reasons why school meal programmes are offered across EU27 and the potential benefits that school meal programmes may have for children.
The research note finds that the most common reasons to offering school meal programmes in Member States include:
- Addressing obesity and related health concerns
- Raising awareness about nutrition and healthy habits
- Supporting learning and educational outcomes
- Addressing food insecurity
- Providing a social space for fostering friendships and social skills
- Responding to environmental concerns.
The research note also finds that evidence about the outcomes and impacts of school meal provisions in the EU is limited.
Carrying out evaluation of such programmes can be challenging. While the available evidence indicates that there may be a positive short-term impact of school meal provisions on children’s dietary outcomes, there is little evidence available on the long-term effects.
Available evidence suggests that one of the main barriers in implementing school meal programmes is low uptake by eligible children. Some factors influencing uptake can include programmes being considered as ‘unappealing’ by children.
EPIC supports Member States to invest in children
This research note is part of a series of research notes developed by EPIC, each focusing on a particular area that is of interest to the proposed European Child Guarantee. Most recent research notes produced by EPIC focus on access to healthcare services for homeless and young people, and practices to prevent anxiety and depression in children.
EPIC also produces a series of short policy memos focusing on topics relevant to child welfare aimed at policymakers, researchers and practitioners. Previous policy memos have focused on sexuality education across the EU and inclusion in early childhood education and care (ECEC).
As well as publications, the EPIC website includes a wide range of content focused on supporting child wellbeing. Regularly updated country profiles provide an overview of measures taken in each Member State to support investment in children and we maintain a broad collection of innovative and evidence-based practices.
- Research note: Provision of school meals across the EU
- European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC)