School principals to be made responsible for canteen food selection
The planned Public Health Act will require school principals to take responsibility for the food provided in school cafeterias and vending machines.
The new Public Health Act draft is reaching the first read in the Riigikogu. The law has been in the pipeline for over 10 years, in fact. Although several requirements or principles are already recommended, they haven't yet had any legal force, and for that reason, the aims generally haven't been getting met, ERR reports.
For example, it transpired that even though there is supposed to be a healthy food selection at school buffets, sweets, pastries and sodas are still taking up the bulk of the space at the counters.
As of now, the Ministry of Social Affairs is planning to change the situation, with responsibility to be transferred to the school principals.
"So far, the guide has been indicative of what this food could be. In the future, the school principal should also monitor what is offered to children," Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) told ERR.
"The principal will have a new role with requirements and restrictions, he will have to take into account the national guidelines that already exist. The school board can also give an opinion beforehand. In a more abstract way, the school administrator can ensure that the school promotes healthy eating."
This way, pastries, french fries, sweet smoothies and soft drunks should be removed from school buffets and replaced with porridge, sandwiches, boiled eggs, kefir, nuts and fruit etc. The Health Development Institute has also developed a guide to foods suitable for sale at school.
Kiik also rejects a claim that free school food cannot be prepared in a healthy way.
"You get what you order," he says of the results of the school's catering procurement.
"With the right will, it's already possible to offer a healthy menu. The local government or the state, as the school operator, must work with the school management to provide the best possible food for children, both during meal breaks and in the buffets and vending machines. Children do not move enough during school, and their diet has led to a significant increase in obesity. "
Care homes and prisons are also required to provide healthy food.
The draft will undergo its first reading on January 12 next year.
Editor: Roberta Vaino