School Lunch Experiences Are Studied

​School lunch without cost to families has belonged to the workdays of Finnish primary and secondary schools for decades. You might think that compared with many other countries, Finns are lucky. However, school lunch is a subject, which raises a lot of opinions, which might not all be so complimentary.

During the following school year, a Nordic research project starts to study and compare the school catering in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Island. In Sweden, as in Finland the meals are free, in Island they are supported financially and in Norway, the students bring their own packed lunch to school.

The Turku Institute for Child and Youth Research of the University of Turku is responsible for the part that is carried out in Finland.

- Our ambitious goal is to study the connection between school lunch and learning among the primary schools’ fourth grade students, Senior Research Fellow Sanna Talvia states.

Information about study environment and school success is collected with observations, tests that measure concentration, and the test and school exam results are compared.

School Catering is Pedagogics

The researchers study the connection of the school lunch and the wholesomeness of the diet, learning and school success. Also, an important aim is to bring out the voice of the children.

- Hopefully, the research project can stimulate in-depth discussion about the pedagogical possibilities of school lunch, says Talvia, who has been a teacher herself.

- We are not looking for the top ten lists of favourite dishes, but the aim is, for example, to better understand the possibilities of school lunches as pedagogic interaction situations.

Lunches should be more than just filling up the stomachs fast. One interesting horizon is the origin of the food and how the food is prepared.

Children Write about Their Experiences

In the multidisciplinary research project, the responsibility of the Turku Institute for Child and Youth Research is also to develop qualitative methods. The innovative and versatile methods include questionnaires, photographing the school lunches, group interviews and empathy-based stories amongst other things.

- Empathy-based stories mean that the children can write a short school lunch related story based on their own experiences and views.

There definitely seems to be a place for the research and communal discussion about the school catering.

- The school catering in Finland is in a challenging situation since there is a will to improve its reputation but on the other hand the financial resources are cut down. We hope that a school lunch that is free for the students would be seen as an important investment for the future and wellbeing of the students, Talvia says.

The researchers aim to get two hundred children born in the year 2003 to take part to the project in each country.

Further information:

>>  The project Prospects for Promoting Health and Pefromance by School Meals in Nordic Countries (ProMeal) is led by the Umeå University

>> Turku Institute for Child and Youth Research

>> Finnish National Board of Education:  School Meals in Finland, brochure (pdf) and internet page

Text: Jussi Matikainen and Henna Borisoff
Translation: Henna Borisoff
Photographs: Robyn Lee, Jussi Matikainen


Keywords: Viestintä;
Published date 8/21/2013 1:55 PM ,  Modified date 8/21/2013 2:12 PM













Facts about School Catering in Finland:

• Part of the basic education starting since 1948.
• About 900 000 pupils get a free school catering daily.
• A school meal includes a warm meal, salad, grated portion, bread, spread and a drink.
• Special diets and allergies are taken into account.
• Part of the curriculum: children are taught health, dietary habits and Finnish cuisine.


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