There are many indications that more and more children in Sweden are going hungry at home. Schools across the country report that children are eating more often and more before and after holidays and weekends. A survey also shows that the increased food intake is linked to a tightening economic situation.
Some municipalities will now offer school lunches even on holidays so that children do not go hungry when they are not at school.
Recently, more and more schools have reported that children are eating more food at lunchtime. For example, several municipalities in Värmland noticed that more food than usual was eaten during the autumn term, reports tax-funded SR. Several municipalities in Stockholm have also responded to a survey from Swedish state television SVT that more food was eaten during lunches in the autumn term. This is partly because more pupils come to the canteen and eat, but also because they eat more food.
A new study by the Swedish newspaper DN has looked at the changes in children’s food intake and whether it can be related to the worsening economic situation.
A survey was sent out to Sweden’s 290 municipalities, of which 202 responded. 129 municipalities (or 63 percent) replied that there have been changes in the way children eat and that, in short, they are eating more.
Cecilia Olsson, associate professor of nutrition science at Umeå University, says it is “reasonable to assume” that this is linked to the economic situation, which is making it harder for many to cope.
– It is reasonable to assume that it is related to the fact that more households are poorer, that pupils are hungrier when they come to school, she tells DN.
Several municipalities agree that children often eat more on Mondays and Fridays and after holidays.
In Härjedalen, it is also believed that it may be due to the tough economic situation in Sweden and that the cost of food makes it more difficult for families to eat their fill. That is why they have decided to offer school meals during the holidays as well. This applies to all pupils from pre-school to the third year of secondary school.
– School meals are the only meal some children receive during the day. A holiday can be hard for some students and therefore it feels good to be able to offer school meals during the holidays, says head of nutrition Åke Remén in Härjedalen municipality.
Other municipalities are following a similar path. The municipality of Söderhamn has also noticed a marked difference in the children’s food intake and has therefore submitted a citizens’ proposal to serve school lunches during the holidays so that the children do not go hungry.
– Many people cannot afford to feed their children. It is our responsibility to ensure that children get school lunches during the holidays,” says Madelene Arbid, who submitted the proposal, to SVT.
This is how the survey was conducted
A survey was sent out to Sweden's 290 municipalities with the following questions:
- Will there be any changes in the budget for school meals in primary schools in the municipality for 2023 compared to the previous year?
- If the municipality has increased or decreased the budget, why?
- Have you noticed any changes in pupils' food intake that can be related to the deteriorating economic situation of households? If yes, what changes have you observed?
- How much money does an average portion of school meals cost in the municipality's primary schools?
Responses were then collected during 17-23 January 2023.