The Finnish school meal has cause for celebration. 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of free school lunches. With the introduction of an act on school lunches, by 1948 all primary schools had to have a school kitchen and offer a free meal on school days to every child, regardless of the child's economic status.
The reason behind the legislation was a long-term concern for the next generation's nutritional status and health, which people hoped to improve by introducing school meals. The reform was implemented during a time when the food situation in the country was poor but also when the importance of school lunches for the future was best understood.
Today, the school lunch is an integral part of the Finnish culinary culture. It reflects the changes in our society and paints a picture of the different ingredients and meals that were typical for each decade.
Besides being nutritious, school lunches serve an educational and pedagogical purpose. In the early days, school gardens and berries picked by pupils were an important financial support for the school kitchens, but they also taught the children the importance of frugality and teamwork. Through their diversification, school lunches have functioned as model for a good and healthy meal as well as introduced new recipes to the kitchens at home.
Classic Finnish school meals include macaroni casserole, pea soup, meat soup, and chicken recipes. Various meat recipes are still amongst the pupils' favourite school meals: meatballs, macaroni casserole, lasagne, sausage, nuggets, and chicken sauce still enjoy popularity amongst the top 10 meals as voted by children. We at Atria are proud to be part of the development of school meals by providing kitchens with safe raw materials.
As the first country to establish school meals by law, Finland has been a pioneer in school meals. Even today, only Finland and Sweden guarantee free school lunches every day and to every child.
This valuable cornerstone guides the way of the future: school meals prepared with love and with good raw materials are about care and education – they teach food culture and the joy of eating together and, above all, they taste good!