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School lunches in Sweden may be free but are they healthy? Photo: Jonatan Nilsson/Sveriges Radio.

School lunches: lack of time and vitamin D

Emma Patterson: School Food Sweden
3:33 min

Sweden is one of only three countries in the world where school meals are free for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. But are children getting the nutrition they need and time to relax in a stress-free environment?

Through its' web-based system, where schools can give feedback on lunch routines, the organisation School Food Sweden (SkolmatSverige) has produced a report on eating habits and nutritional quality.

The report, which is backed by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and Stockholm County Council, stated that Vitamin D and time are missing from school lunch breaks.

School lunches are served early in the day, around 11, and for a short period. Almost a quarter of the 560 schools who responded, have less than 25 minutes at the dinner table. 

"It's worrying that only a small number of students feel that they have enough time to enjoy their lunch ," Emma Patterson, project leader at School Food Sweden, told Radio Sweden.

The report also showed that the lunch rooms were noisy and that the food did not meet the nutritional standards issued by the National Food Agency. Schools performed especially bad when it came to meeting the vitamin-D quota, due to not serving enough fatty fish.

"Not every school can afford professional nutritional evaluations, but if more schools followed the National Food Agency's guidelines they would reach the standards ," Patterson said.

However, it was not all bad marks. Over 75 percent of schools cook their food on the premises, and almost half have their own food councils.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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