Vidzeme Living Lab: Discussion on school catering issues and how to promote healthier food choices

Vidzeme Living Lab: Discussion on school catering issues and how to promote healthier food choices

Thursday, January 11, 2024

On January 9, the project CITIES2030 Vidzeme Living Lab took place in the restaurant “Pavāru māja” (Cook’s House) in Līgatne (Latvia). The restaurant was awarded the MICHELIN Green Star 2024 for its commitment to sustainable practices.

This time, the theme of Living Lab activities was “Experiences and opinions on the school meals and attitudes towards food.” The event brought together CITIES2030 Latvian partners, including representatives from the Vidzeme Planning Region and the Latvian Rural Forum, as well as stakeholders in the catering process of schools and kindergartens, including the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre, the Association of Caterers of Educational Institutions, the Latvian Caterers Association, catering company representatives, parents, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.

The objective of the restaurant “Pavāru māja” has always been to discover the pure taste of Latvia and to collaborate with local farmers. The Chef and owner of the restaurant shared his thoughts about children’s eating habits and meals in educational institutions.

Participants discussed how to change school lunch menus and how to get meals cooked from locally sourced ingredients, including organic products. Local farmer support was highlighted as a crucial component of this activity, as catering to schools provides as a significant outlet for them. The event attendees agreed on the significance of bringing together all stakeholders to effect major changes in the current food system. They must include both dramatic organizational and financial reforms.

Discussants emphasized the strong relationship between children’s and their families’ eating habits. They stressed the idea that there is a need for educational work on healthy eating at all levels – children, parents, civil servants, etc. They admitted that knowledge about healthy eating should be integrated into school programs. Opinion leaders outside the family – teachers, peers, digital content creators – can also play an important role in promoting healthy eating.

At the end of the discussion, a master class was held by the owner of the “Pavāru māja” Ēriks Dreibants. He shared ideas of what a lunch at school could be.

The discussion in the “Pavāru māja” was one of the steps towards transforming the catering of educational institutions and promoting a healthier eating culture among children and young people. The event successfully complemented other activities started in the project CITIES2023 pilot area in Vidzeme. It was part of a process aimed at encouraging positive change in the consumption of seasonal and local products, meals in schools, and green public procurement.