Health and Sustainability in Public Meals-An Explorative Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jan 18;17(2):621. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17020621.


The world is facing a number of challenges related to food consumption. These are, on the one hand, health effects and, on the other hand, the environmental impact of food production. Radical changes are needed to achieve a sustainable and healthy food production and consumption. Public and institutional meals play a vital role in promoting health and sustainability, since they are responsible for a significant part of food consumption, as well as their "normative influence" on peoples' food habits. The aim of this paper is to provide an explorative review of the scientific literature, focusing on European research including both concepts of health and sustainability in studies of public meals. Of >3000 papers, 20 were found to satisfy these criteria and were thus included in the review. The results showed that schools and hospitals are the most dominant arenas where both health and sustainability have been addressed. Three different approaches in combining health and sustainability have been found, these are: "Health as embracing sustainability", "Sustainability as embracing health" and "Health and sustainability as separate concepts". However, a clear motivation for addressing both health and sustainability is most often missing.

Keywords: Europe; health; public meals; sustainability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Meals*
  • Schools