School meals generally consist of typical Finnish foods. A good school meal consists of
a warm main course (dishes with fish, meat, vegetables; beans and sprouts as part of vegetarian diet)
a side of vegetables (salad, grated vegetables or fresh vegetables pieces)
bread and table spread
a drink (skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, buttermilk)
water to quench thirst
Government guidelines offer more detailed support for planning and serving school food.
School meals are an integral part of national core curricula for basic and pre-primary education, before- and after-school activities as well as schools’ student welfare services and food education. Local and school-level curricula define the central principles of arranging school catering. The curricula also describe the objectives for education in health, nutrition and manners. The health-related and social role of school meals, the objectives of nutritional education and learning of manners as well as the recreational aspect of lunch breaks will be taken into account when arranging school meals and any snacks that may be offered during the school day. Pupils have the opportunity to participate in planning and implementing school meals, which fosters involvement and community spirit.
Regular meals constitute significantly to children and young people’s wellbeing, their ability to learn and to their healthy growth and development. Meal breaks should allow pupils and students to enjoy their meals in a calm, enjoyable and unhurried manner. Breaks must also give pupils and students a chance to interact with others and take a break from teaching.
People in Finland are generally proud of the country’s long history of providing free school meals. A good lunch is more than nutrition. It is something that gives pleasure, relaxes, refreshes, maintains the ability to work and helps children grow healthy. A good school meal is seen as an investment in the future.