”And please have some rye bread with your soup”, Minister Hautala advised her guests participating in the school lunch Finland organised during the UN Week. The purpose of the event was to outline the connection between a healthy diet and development.
In her cooker’s outfit, Minister Heidi Hautala deviated from the basic approach to the UN Week. And so did the lunch the Minister was serving: high-level UN guests were offered fish and vegetable soup and traditional Finnish rye bread, baked in New York.
The purpose of the lunch organised in the premises of the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN on Tuesday 20 September was to underscore the importance of health for development. Into the bargain, the participants got a genuine feel of what an ordinary school lunch is like for Finnish pupils, including everything from queuing to a glass of milk. The food was tasty and people quite amazed when Hautala told that no salt had been added to the food during preparation.
Minister Hautala, who gave the opening address, emphasised the importance of health for development. A healthy and balanced lunch helps young people remain healthy, which has a positive impact on development. In poorer countries, a school lunch encourages parents to send their children to school, Sheila Sisulu from the World Food Programme explained.
In western countries, on the other hand, school lunch can be used as an instrument in the fight against obesity and diabetes, among others.
Hautala referred to the ‘health in all policies' concept launched by Finland, according to which health must be systematically promoted in all sectors. In this work, both corporate responsibility and the efforts of the civil society are needed.
The Minister also pointed out that school lunch pays for itself in many ways. It improves learning results, and vegetable food may even have climate impacts.
Many significant guests took the floor at the event. U.S. Surgeon General Doctor Regina Benjamin told about a project in which school children even participated in growing their food. Professor Srinath Reddy from India, who admitted being a great admirer of the Finnish public health expert Pekka Puska, on the other hand, pointed out that pupils must be able to participate in the planning of school meals. He also pointed out that, in India, school lunch helps children from different castes function together, as they have already shared their meals.
The WHO representative Zsuzsanna Jakob suggested that soda automats in schools are a problem, and many people present joined her view. Evelin Ilves, wife of the President of Estonia, told also about the Estonian school lunch system.
The participants in the UN Week school lunch were evidently quite satisfied with their meal. They also agreed on the fact that even though meals are closely tied with the culture, the principle should be the same as in the educational poster on the wall: “If you want to become the first Finnish astronaut, first eat your meal. If you eat a healthy diet, do sports, have enough sleep and are a non-smoker, you can achieve anything."