Food education for sustainability in schools’ curricula and daily routines in Finland

The research project SEED deals with exploring and developing sustainability education within the Finnish basic education. With the focus on school food and schools’ food education the overall objective is to promote Finnish food culture, sustainability of food provisioning and to improve appreciation of domestic food.

The research task of Subproject 1 is to clarify to what extent the statutory school lunch is used in teaching, how food education and sustainability education are understood, and how they are at present implemented in schools. The aim is to find ways of integrating school lunch into the schools’ educational goals as part of sustainability education, and thereby taking the Finnish school meal model large step forward.

Research questions


– the role of food education in the basic education in Finland

– the possible linkages of food education to sustainability education

– the role of school food in schools’ educational goals

– the within-school co-operation among the teachers and  catering personnel

– the extent and type of schools’ co-operation with the farms

– basic information regarding practical arrangements around school food


Methods and implementation

Subproject 1 is carried out in three phases. Different methods are used so as to step-wise add depth to the research. The first phase featured a survey that was sent via Internet to all Finnish- and Swedish-speaking first grade schools in Finland in August 2008.

The second phase comprised a content analysis of the curricula of those schools that mention school food or school-farm co-operation, or both, in their curriculum. The schools for the analysis were chosen on the basis of the results obtained from the survey of the first phase. In addition, content analysis was carried out on those municipal school curricula that were available through the Internet, as well as on a number of the Green flag –schools’ curricula. Also the home pages of the five so called Carbon Neutral Municipalities were searched. The results of the survey and of the curricular analysis have been published in a report (in Finnish).

The third phase is planning of an actor-oriented intervention, whereby food education is developed and practically implemented together with the researchers, teachers and school’s catering personnel. Intervention itself is part of the subproject 4. The school for intervention is selected among those who have expressed interest to take part in the research.


Subproject 1 is carried out at the MTT Agrifood Research Finland with Helmi Risku-Norja as the responsible researcher. This research is a natural continuation to the rural-based environmental and sustainability education that has been actively developed at the MTT since the beginning of the millennium.

Information about the research and its results will be disseminated in domestic and international conferences. Also articles dealing with the topic of subproject 1 will be published; the writings are directed to the public, educational and catering professionals as well as to the scientific community.

Popular publications in English

Risku-Norja, H. 2010.Municipal catering services, school meals and sustainable food supply. Finnish Agriculture and Rural Industries 2010:84-85.


Risku-Norja, H., Kurppa, S, Silvennoinen, K., Nuoranne, A., Skinnari, J. 2010. Public catering services and food education: via daily routines towards sustainable food provisioning  MTT Kasvu 10 (2010). Research report in Finnish with an English abstract[Abstract]  Up-dated 30.3.2010. ,

Mikkola, M., Risku-Norja, H. 2012. Local public food – upgrading match between concepts and structures. Producing and reproducing farming systems: New modes of organisation for sustainable food systems of tomorrow. 10th European IFSA Symposium, 1-4 July 2012 in Aarhus, Denmark.

Risku-Norja, H. 2011. From environmental concerns towards sustainable food provisioning. 6th International Conference on Industrial Ecology, June 7-10, 2011, University of California, Berkeley. International Society of Industrial Ecology – ISIE 2011.

Risku-Norja, H., Kurppa, S., Mikkola, M. 2011. School lunch and sustainability – food education for sustainability .9th European Science Education Research Association – ESERA Conference. September 5th – 9th Lyon, FRANCE.

Mikkola, M., Risku-Norja, H. 2011. Anticipatory network dialogues: a method to promote sustainability skills of food supply chain businesses. 2nd International Conference on Sustainability Transitions, 13-16.6.2011, Lund, Sweden. STRN – Sustainability Transitions Research Network.

Mikkola, M., Roos, G., Spigarolo, R. & Risku-Norja, H. 2011. Food education for sustainability: the emergence of a system-dynamic curricular pattern. 11th UKFIET. International Conference on Education and Development, 13.-15.09.2011 at Oxford, UK.

Risku-Norja, H. 2009. School goes to the farm – knowledge, skills, experiences, participation. In: Mikkola, M.; Mikkelsen, B.; Roos, G. (eds.). Like what you get? Is it good for you? Organic food, health and sustainable development in schools : proceedings of the seminar held at University of Helsinki, Ruralia Institute 21.-22.January 2009, Helsinki, Finland. CORE Organic Project Series Report 1881: p. 57-61. (Proceeding). [Url]

Risku-Norja, H. 2009. Guilty cows: Does giving up of milk products significantly decrease the GHG emissions of food consumption? In: Informing Possibilities for the Future of Food and Agriculture, AFHV & ASFS Conference May 28-31 2009, Pennsylvania. Book of Abstracts. p. 74.

Risku-Norja, H. 2009. School goes to the farm – knowledge, skills, experiences, participation. In: Mikkola, M.; Mikkelsen, B.; Roos, G. (Eds.) Like what you get? Is it good for you? Organic food, health and sustainable development in schools. Proceedings of Like what you get? Is it good for you? Organic food, health and sustainable development in schools, University of Helsinki, Finland, Ruralia Institute, 21.- 22. January 2009, p. 57-61.

Risku-Norja, H., Kurppa, S, Helenius, J. 2009. Diet choices and greenhouse gas emissions – assessments from a household to national scale. The Future of the Consumer Society. 11th International Conference of Finland Futures Research Centre and Finland Futures Academy, 28-29 May 2009, Tampere.

Risku-Norja, H., Mikkola, M. 2009. From liturgy to praxis. Conceptualisation of SD in the context of municipal catering. Posteri.

1)            SOAR Workshop – Research School for Organic Agriculture and Food Systems, Global Organic Food Chains – agroecology, environment and livelihood. Department of Agricultural Sciences, KVL. Environment, Resources and Technology, 22.-27.111.2009, Lyngby, Danmark.

2)            “International workshop on System Innovations, Knowledge Regimes, and Design Practices towards Sustainable Agriculture”. Lelystad, The Netherlands, 16-18 June 2010

Mikkola, M., Risku-Norja, H., Kurppa, S. 2010. Meta-Engineering Sustainable Food System by Panoramic Co-Configuration as a Developmental Tool.  International Conference on p. 190-195.

Mikkola, M., Risku-Norja, H.., Post, A. 2010. Sustainability dilemmas and their solution strategies by committed food businesses. 4th International European Forum (Igls-Forum) on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks, February 08-12, 2010 Innsbruck-Igls, Austria. 13.s.

Risku- Norja, H., Korpela, E. 2010. School goes to the Farm –   conceptualisation of rural-based sustainability education. In: G. Çakmakci and M.F. Taşar (editors) Contemporary Science Education Research: Scientific Literacy and Social Aspects of Science. A Collection of papers presented at ESERA 2009 Conference. pp. 175-184. Ankara, Turkey, Pegem Akademi.

Risku-Norja, H., Mikkola, M..2010. Towards sustainable food systems through innovative networks in public catering. Building sustainable rural futures – The added value of systems approaches in times of change and uncertainty.  9th European IFSA 2010, Vienna, Austria, Book of Abstracts. p. 53. 1731-1739.

Peer-reviewed articles

Risku-Norja, H., Mikkola, M. 2009. Systemic Sustainability Characteristics of Organic Farming. Agronomic Research 7. Special Issue: Fostering healthy food systems through organic agriculture – Focus on Nordic-Baltic Region: 728-736.

Risku-Norja, H., Kurppa, S., Helenius, J. 2009. Dietary choices and greenhouse gas emissions – assessment of impact of organic and vegetarian options at national scale. Progress in Industrial Ecology 6(4):340-354