Food and nutrition policy for schools: a tool for the development of school nutrition programmes in the WHO European Region
Healthy nutrition interventions need to occur early in childhood and adolescence in order to prevent or reverse the adverse health effects of overweight and poor eating habits. Childhood and adolescence is a critical period for diets of high nutritional quality as the physiological need for nutrients is high relative to energy needs. In addition, many core eating habits and behavioural patterns are developed that may persist throughout adulthood. Schools can provide an important opportunity for prevention, because they provide the most effective method of reaching large numbers of people, including youth, school staff, families and community members. Healthy food and improved nutrition should be a high priority on every school agenda because of the positive affect on child well-being, and subsequent enhanced learning ability and academic performance. A single European school food and nutrition policy cannot be formulated due to wide cross-country variation among schooling systems. It is therefore essential for each country, authority or school to decide which of the suggestions for school nutrition and food policy are most appropriate and applicable to their circumstances. Dietary guidelines are provided in Annex 1 for children in nursery school and preschool (3–7 years old) and students in primary and secondary schools (7–18 years old).