The Flemish government has issued new guidelines for schools regarding healthier lunches for students. The guidelines were drawn up by the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, on a commission from health minister Jo Vandeurzen and education minister Hilde Crevits.
The question concerns mainly Flemish secondary schools in the region and in Brussels. Sandwiches are only offered for lunch in one in ten primary schools; in secondary schools the figure is seven in ten.
“Students can choose brown bread in four out of ten schools, but they have to ask specifically,” said Loes Neven of the Institute. “White bread is the default, when the reverse ought to be the case. We also advise schools to be more varied in their fillings.”
That likely means a loss of the primacy of ham, salami and cheese, with the continuing increase in young people electing for a vegetarian or even vegan diet. And processed meat products like Martino and meat salad do not even figure in the new food triangle, sitting instead outside in the red zone of foods to avoid.
“Those sandwiches should not even be on offer,” Neven said. “We are advising schools to withdraw them from sale gradually, down to perhaps once a week. And we are promoting plant-based alternatives such as hummus and pumpkin spread.”
Later, she said, the Institute will turn its attention even to those students who bring sandwiches from home which may not fit the new guidelines.
“We already have guidelines for schools on healthy snacks, drinks, warm meals and sandwiches. In our next step we can turn our attention directly to parents.”
Meanwhile tomorrow sees a vote in the Flemish parliament on a proposal for a so-called “cafeteria revolution” proposed by member Elisabeth Meuleman, which would guarantee that all school meals were covered by a health guarantee. The government, she said, “would lay down clear scientific standards to which school meals would have to adhere. We are not working with patronising and limited guidelines, but with sufficiently broad criteria that school cooks can express their creativity, and make use of the availability of local products.”
And she described the release of the new guidelines as “a shameless attempt to sweep my proposal from the table with a vague and weakened suggestion.”