2024: Looking back at 12 years of International School Meals Day

2024: Looking back at 12 years of International School Meals Day

As International School Meals Day marks its 12th year with the theme ‘Innovation in school meals: new routes to sustainable nutrition’, Simon Massey, Head of Engagement & Learning at Children in Scotland, looks back at the beginnings of ISMD and it’s evolution over more than a decade. 

How it started

International School Meals Day first came about as a result of an ongoing knowledge exchange connection on school meals between USA and Scotland, which began in 2009. It was recognised that both countries had a ‘National’ week for school meals but there was no ‘Global day’ that celebrated the power and value of school meals.

So, a project was launched with aim of ‘connecting children around the world to help foster healthy eating habits in school and at home, and to share policies, practices and research’, and the first ISMD took place in 2013.

Thanks to Scottish Government funding and a core of international partners, Children in Scotland have been able to deliver ISMD each March since then.

So has anything changed in the last 12 years?

In relation to school meals across the world, we have seen a lot of change. Many more countries are understanding the importance of a nutritious meal and the impact it can have on a child, both at school and beyond. There is now a lot of evidence that supports development in this area, and many countries are now putting more resources into it, but there is still lots to do.

In addition to longer-term challenges different countries face, there have also been many specific ones over recent years that only make things harder. This includes the climate crisis, poverty, the Covid19 pandemic as well as war and the associated humanitarian crises.

From the point of view of ISMD itself, a lot had changed over the last ten years. We have seen different countries get involved each year, with new places being able to share a wider range of school meals and people involved in them. We’ve made use of different digital platforms as they develop – from Tumblr at the beginning, to Twitter / X and Thunderclaps (when data protection legislation allowed it), a new website was launched a few years ago where we share practice in different ways and, each year, we develop new resources for initiatives for schools to use.

Further information

We do not produce our own reports about school meals – we share best practice and highlight reports that others produce. Some good places to look include:
World Food Programme
Global Child Nutrition Foundation
School Meals Coalition

But in relation to ISMD itself, a couple of things to highlight include:

• Our 10th Anniversary publication, released in 2022, provides additional background information, some interviews with key partners and a summary of previous ISMD themes.
• We recently started providing an annual infographic, outlining key stats for the day with 2023 and 2022 available on the website.
• 2018 was the Year of Young People in Scotland and we made sure children and young people were central to ISMD activity. We launched a cookbook competition and had 100 entries from children across the world. A group of children in Scotland judged the competition and the My Food cookbook was released.