School Nutrition Law, Slovenia: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH
Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy Snapshot: Slovenia School Nutrition Law

Overview:  In last decade, with obesity rates soaring, policymakers in Slovenia began assessing target populations and found that Slovenian adolescents very often chose unhealthy foods, ate meals irregularly, skipped breakfast, consumed less fruit and vegetables, and consumed high quantities of sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2010[MG1], Slovenia’s government passed legislation that organized national School Meals Program, which committed schools to the mandatory use of Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Nutrition and banned vending machines from selling any foods or sugary drink on school property. The law compliments standards and subsidies for school menus, cross-curricular nutrition education, and a school fruit and vegetable program.

Location: Slovenia

  • Population: 2 million (Slovenia 2015 census)
  • 146th largest country in the world

Progress to date:

  • The vending machine ban is still in effect today
  • The National Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Nutrition in Kindergartens and Schools became obligatory by the renovated School Meals Act in 2010, amended in 2013
  • Schools are regularly professionally monitored for compliance with the Dietary Guidelines, with the aim to advise schools to improve their meals
  • All pupils can access a healthy and nutritious school meal, even those from low-income families (subsidized meals)

Food policy category: Food Insecurity; Food Supply & Distribution; Social and Economic Equity

Program Initiated: During the 1992/93 school year  

  • The law was later renovated by the School Meals Act in 2010
  • The law was once again amended in 2013.  

Program goals:

  • To ensure that the national [MG3] government is committed to a food system that is secure, healthy, sustainable, thriving and socially inclusive
  • To improve pupils/students knowledge of and access to healthy and nutritious food
  • To enable food choices among pupils/students that enhance health and wellbeing

How it works:

Slovenia has a long tradition of providing healthy, nutritionally substantial school meals. School meals are also an integral part of school curriculum. All schools in Slovenia are mandatorily enrolled in the School Meals Program, which is regulated by the School Meals Act. School meals provide roughly 20-70 percent of daily energy requirements, depending on the number of meals offered, for most students.

  • Under this law, every school is obliged to organize at least one meal (mid-morning snack) a day for all students.
  • In practice, all primary schools offer at least one mid-morning snack and lunch to all students. It is also common for many schools to offer breakfast and an afternoon snack for younger students as well. More than 98 percent of pupils eat mid-morning snack and around 73 percent of pupils eat lunch at school.
  • Mid-morning snack funding for students from low-income families is completely subsidized. The same is true for additional school meals if the family of the student falls below a legislatively defined income line.    
  • The National Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Nutrition in Kindergartens and schools (NDG) were adopted as part of a more comprehensive Slovene Food and Nutrition Policy in 2005 and became obligatory under the revised School Meals Act in 2010 (further amended in 2013). Since then, schools have been mandated to adapt school meals to meet these guidelines.    
  • Schools are assessed with comprehensive evaluations, using different monitoring systems, such as defined in  2006 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.                

Why it is important:

  • This policy is intended to advance the health literacy of citizens of Slovenians. The implementation of this program has allowed many citizens to obtain and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.
  • This program is also working to improve access to healthy and nutritious foods. By offering reduced healthy foods in schools, many low income families will have access to quality produce.

Evaluation:

  • In a 2013 study evaluating the impacts of this policy, foodservice managers reported high rates of implementation in almost all process evaluation areas described in the guidelines.
  • An even more successful implementation of these guidelines was found in relation to organization cultural issues as compared with technical issues. Differences found in some process evaluation areas were related to location, size and socio-economic characteristics of schools.
  • Evaluation of school menu quality demonstrated that score values followed a normal distribution. Higher (better) nutrition scores were found in larger-sized schools and corresponding municipalities with higher socioeconomic status. School lunches did not meet minimum recommendations for energy and nutrients content, especially for micronutrients.
  • Providing school meals that meet complex guidelines is challenging; subsequently the government ran several implementation assessments to best determine which pathway unleashed greatest conflict.

Learn more:

Point of Contact: Slovenian National Institute of Public Health: [email protected]

Similar practices:

  • Bulgaria
    • The reduction of salt, fat and sugar content in food served in all canteens in schools, kindergartens and childcare centres was mandated in 2009. In addition, there are restrictions in place for certain unhealthful foods and drinks in vending machines. The corresponding recipe books used by school caterers for school children and children aged 0 – 3 years, were updated in 2012 to reflect the ordinances’ requirements. Compliance with the ordinances is monitored by the Regional Health Inspectorates who may fine offenders.
  • Costa Rica
    • Ministries of Health and Education set restrictions on products sold to students in elementary and high schools, including foods with high levels of fats sugars and salt such as chips, cookies, candy and carbonated sodas. Schools are only permitted to sell foods and drinks that meet specific nutritional criteria.

References:

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