School health and nutrition

22 March 2023

Childhood and adolescence are critical times for establishing healthy lifestyles.

Schools should equip learners with the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices. Good health and nutrition are foundations for learning and a crucial investment for more sustainable, inclusive and peaceful futures – they can improve education outcomes, empower learners to thrive and promote inclusion and equity in education and health.

On the occasion of the new global report on school health and nutrition around the world entitled “Ready to learn and thrive”, UNESCO answers to some important questions around school health and nutrition.

What is the state of school health and nutrition around the world?

The good news is that:

  • 9 in 10 countries globally invest in school health and nutrition programmes;

  • 1 in 2 primary school children receives school meals;

  • almost every country includes education for health and well-being in its curriculum.

And yet many children, in particular girls, are missing out especially in the poorest countries:

  • 73 million children are not reached by school feeding, undermining their ability to benefit from education.

  • 1 in 3 schools do not have basic drinking water and adequate sanitation.

What are some of the key challenges?

Despite significant progress on school health and nutrition, more work must be done to ensure that the programmes in place are comprehensive, meet the needs of all learners and can be sustained. Many children are still missing out, especially in the poorest countries and most marginalized communities.

As the world is facing a global food crisis and struggling with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, school health and nutrition must be integral to the daily mission of education systems across the globe.

What can we do about it?

To transform education and the lives of children and adolescents, this publication urges governments and development partners to put learners’ health and well-being at the core of the education agenda and to improve the quality and reach of school health and nutrition programmes.

There are many ways in which schools can promote physical and mental health and well-being. This starts by including health and well-being in curriculum, providing nutritious school meals and ensuring access to health services. It also means ensuring that school environments are free from violence and conducive to good health, nutrition, development and learning.

Greater efforts to engage learners and communities and to ensure school staff and teachers have the necessary knowledge, tools and support are also needed.

Source: UNESCO, Ready to learn and thrive. School health and nutrition around the world

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