School lunches

Elever äter skollunch

School lunches are served in many countries, but the Swedish school meal model is unique in offering free meals to all children in the ages 7-16 and to most students aged 16-19, on an everyday basis. The school meals are important to even out socio-economic differences in health.

The Swedish school meals have received a boost over the past decade with many municipal efforts in bringing food quality and chef skills into school kitchens.

National efforts to free school meals started in the early 1900s, and comprised the majority of Swedish schoolchildren in the 70s. Since 2011 the Swedish School Law stipulates that school lunches must be nutritious, thus equal a third of the recommended daily intake of energy and nutrients.

Every year 260 million meals are served in Swedish schools. The meals are hot and often several alternatives are available. Salad, bread, butter, milk and water are also on the menu.

School meals have an average price tag of 6 700 SEK per year and person, the cost covering ingredients, personnel and transportation. The meals are financed via local tax. 

The municipalities are responsible for the school lunches, and the local catering organisation can be designed in various ways. In many schools the food is prepared in the schools own kitchen. However, many municipalities have large, centralized catering kitchens and the food is transported to each school, warm or cooled for later heating.

Meal production can be operated by the municipality or by a purchased contractor. The National Food Agency issues recommendations for school meals; considering ingredients as well as time of serving, meal environment and how to involve students in the meal service. 

The national guidelines for school meals state that school lunches are to be a part of the education and that those pupils who eat lunch have better presuppositions to learn. The guidelines also include recommendations for environmental sustainability that state that through conscious choices and reduced food waste, school meals can contribute to a reduced environmental impact and good conditions for both humans and animals.

Reviewed 2022-09-26