When asked about their impression of school lunches, respondents said they were well balanced, healthy and nourishing. At the same time, the parents were aware of cost constraints, and want more resources to be allocated to school lunches.
For parents and guardians, the main purpose of school lunches is to give children enough energy for the school day (90%). The answers of parents with children in lower secondary school emphasised the importance of flavour and social breaks. The flavour and quality of food stood out as major concerns, because their importance and the expectations for meals services didn't meet.
The respondents worry that children may not be getting enough energy during and after the school day. Over a quarter (27%) were very concerned that their child’s diet wasn’t balanced enough. More than one-fifth were very concerned about the children’s ability to concentrate and about their getting enough exercise and sleep.
“This survey confirmed that it is extremely important for us to continue developing vegetarian meals. We also want to look more closely into how food affects the brain – that is, themes that are also important for schools, such as energy levels, concentration and learning”, says Jaana Korhola, Managing Director of Fazer Food Services Finland.
More cooperation between home and school
According to Fazer’s survey, there is often no interaction between the service provider and the home. Nearly half of the respondents didn’t have a clear idea of what school meal service is like and what the children eat, if they eat anything at all at school. Only 40% of respondents felt that they receive enough information on the children’s school meal service. Half of the parents want more information on the school meal service online and from electronic channels.
“This indicates a need to think how meal services and dialogue with the customers are implemented. This is especially important now that school lunches are part of the official curricula, as food education”, says Korhola.
The more parents felt that they have received enough information about school lunches, the better they rated the school meal services in all areas.
Involving students in the planning of future school lunches
With the ongoing regional government and health and social services reform, small municipalities will face challenges in providing meal services, because they are not considered core municipal services. At the same time, parents and guardians have growing expectations about the quality and nutritional value of food.
The most important factors of future school lunches were flavour (80%), local ingredients (53%) in second place, and reducing food waste (46%).
Two out of three respondents (64%) want children to be included in the development and brainstorming process of school lunches in the future. Especially parents with small children would like children to be able to taste and experiment different foods, and learn about the importance of food for their own wellbeing. Those with children in lower secondary school felt that children should be better taken into account when developing school meal services.
Don’t push, nudge!
A good example of Fazer’s development of meal services is the concept of nudging. Nudging can help cafeterias to change children’s eating behaviour, for example by reducing the consumption of meat and using more vegetables.
“Instead of telling children to have healthier eating habits, we can gently steer them in the right direction. We don’t push – we encourage, giving them just a little nudge towards making better choices themselves”, says Korhola.
According to Korhola, ensuring the availability of high-quality school lunch services is a major concern for the future.
“We want to emphasise the nutritional value of food and its contribution to wellbeing. We have focused on responsible sourcing, such as using local ingredients, and are increasingly investing in preventing waste of food”, she says.
During 2018, Fazer will arrange discussion events about municipality services at the visitor centre in Vantaa and elsewhere in Finland. The participants are decision-makers from various settings and private sector operators. The aim is to develop better-working cooperation models for providing better municipality services throughout Finland.
Fazer studied the views, expectations and hopes of parents and guardians regarding school lunches. The survey was carried out using a consumer network panel. The total number of respondents was 1,004, 20% of which were guardians of under school-aged children. They were statistically representative of Finland’s overall population. Innolink carried out the survey for Fazer Food Services in January 2018.
The Fazer media phone line is open Mon–Fri from 8 am to 4 pm, tel. +358 40 668 2998
Pekka Vuorela, Managing Director, Innolink, tel. +358 50 571 8804
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