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First Global School Meals Summit in Paris, France

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

By: Dr. Amberley Ruetz

On October 18-19, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted 59 countries along with 150 non-governmental organizations, at the first School Meals Coalition Global Summit in Paris, France. This initiative, launched in 2021 by France and Finland, with the support of the World Food Programme, aims to ensure that by 2030, every child in the world has access to the school meals they need to learn and grow well.

A range of important announcements were made during the Summit which will help achieve this goal:

  • 28 countries reported progress since joining the Coalition such as Kenya which earlier this year announced the creation of Africa’s largest school meal program.

  • Seven new countries, Belgium, Italy, Latvia, Mongolia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, and Ukraine, joined the Coalition.

  • Many other countries used the Summit to announce new commitments to growing the reach and improving the quality of school meals programmes such as:

- the UAE which committed to providing meals to all children in public schools over the next 2 years;

- France renewed their commitment to €1 school meals in school and university cafeterias and free breakfasts in schools (benefiting 250,000 pupils in the 2022-2023 academic year). Since they were introduced in April 2019, 20 million €1 meals have been served in school cafeterias. Likewise, €50 million in aid was disbursed as part of France’s post-pandemic recovery plan for school cafeterias in sustainable municipalities. French efforts have also focused on the quality of food for all. France set a goal of having 50% of the products served be sustainable products and with a quality label, including 20% from organic farming.

- Somalia which launched a new Home Grown School Feeding Policy.

  • The International Parliamentary Network for Education and the School Meals Coalition will co-publish a toolkit for parliamentarians on school feeding designed to make the case for school feeding to MPs and support them to take action to grow and improve school feeding in their country and globally.

  • The Global Partnership for Education and the School Meals Coalition will partner to create the “School Nutrition Technical Assistance Facilities Initiative” to help create better access to school meals financing, improved policy & legal frameworks, and increased participation in homegrown school feeding.

Photo caption (from left to right): Dr. Amberley Ruetz, Coalition for Healthy School Food; Heidi Kessler, Global Child Nutrition Foundation, and Judith Barry, Breakfast Club of Canada

Canadian non-governmental organizations from Canada including the Coalition for Healthy School Food, Centre for Health Science and Law (CHSL), and Breakfast Club of Canada, were among the first organizations to join the School Meal Coalition. The Government of Canada was much later in signing, but did eventually sign on last year; however, the Federal Government pledge of a National School Food Program in Budget 2019 and two 2021 ministerial mandate letters remain unfunded.

Brazil announced it will host the next Global School Meal Summit in 2025. Hopefully, Canada will have great news of federal funding from Budget 2024 that we can all celebrate in Brazil in 2025.

On a personal level, it was amazing to be with so many passionate advocates of school food programs. Hearing about the amazing programming at the grassroots level, funding commitment from governments, and on-going research was inspirational.

To read the full summary of the Summit, see the School Meal Coalitions’ Paris Statement here:

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