HomeDomestic NewsDanish School Food Initiative Sparks Debate on Student Well-being

Danish School Food Initiative Sparks Debate on Student Well-being

On Monday, school meals were on the agenda at a hearing at Christiansborg. One of the focuses was on Læsø Municipality, the only municipality in Denmark that offers free school meals to all students. The initiative has been in place for a year and a half and includes the 120 students at Læsø School. Mayor Tobias Birch Johansen (V), who has three children at the school, believes that the scheme has a positive impact on the students’ well-being. “The students like the food and are happy to eat together across grades,” he says. He also points out that the scheme is popular among parents, as it gives them more time in their daily lives. The scheme costs the municipality around one million Danish kroner per year, but the mayor sees it as a good investment in the students’ well-being. “Poor well-being is very expensive and requires many resources to address,” he emphasizes.

The hearing at Christiansborg was organized by the Social Democrats’ (Socialdemokratiet) food spokesperson, Ida Auken, who wanted input from various stakeholders with practical experience with school meals. The Socialist People’s Party (De Radikale) has proposed that free school meals should be expanded to all municipalities, a model estimated to cost around 3.3 billion Danish kroner annually. However, this proposal is rejected by the Social Democrats, who want to explore different models before deciding on financing. Professor Bent Egberg Mikkelsen from the University of Copenhagen also participated in the hearing and presented a study on the status of school meals in Denmark. According to the study, six out of ten public schools offer students the opportunity to purchase meals, but only around one in ten students take advantage of this offer on an average day. Many instead bring packed lunches, of which around one in five ends up in the trash or at the bottom of a backpack. “Students may be able to skip lunch or go outside the school to buy something they can eat if they are old enough to have permission to do so,” says Bent Egberg Mikkelsen.

The hearing at Christiansborg has thus brought attention to an important debate about school meals in Denmark and how best to improve students’ well-being and health through the school’s food offerings.

Read the danish version here

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