Origins/context – a public matter
The necessity for balanced nutrition to enhance the well-being of European Citizens is becoming increasingly clear, especially as the causal link between poor nutrition, obesity and ill-health becomes more firmly established. It is with this link in mind that Europeans are increasingly taking responsibility for their lifestyles and eating habits. The public and private sectors are now working together on a wide-range of solutions to tackle the problem head-on, and initiatives to curb the trend are flourishing both in Europe and beyond.
Whereas commonly it is perceived that eating healthily is more expensive, our project aims to demonstrate that it is possible and rewarding to eat wholesome, nutritious, sustainable local produce at a reasonable price.
As understanding grows, it is becoming clear that adequate nutritional information is necessary to enable individuals to accurately determine the nutritional value of their food choices.
The rising trend of obesity and the increasing incidence of related chronic diseases has spurred public authorities to conceive action plans to combat the development. In this vein, a “Charter on Counteracting Obesity” was signed in 2006 by European Ministers, together with the World Health Organisation.
For the first time, experts from separate but nonetheless complementary fields across six countries, have converged to work together to create firm communication links between the supply- and demand-sides for food. The project will include and seek to exchange expertise from many levels of society, in order to combine appropriate expertise, interests and opinions.
Learn more about the obesity phenomenon in Europe: “Why FOOD?”
Read more about the project: “The project – a solution to public issues”
The European Union – policy and support
A number of structures and instruments have been set up at Community level:
- European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
Launched in March 2005, its aim is to establish a framework for joint action in the fight against obesity. It brings together all the relevant actors at European level who wish to take on binding commitments in the fight against excessive weight and obesity.
- European Network on Diet and Physical Activity, now called "High Level Group on Nutrition"
The network was set up in 2003 with the different Member States to advise the Commission on drawing up Community-wide actions in the field of nutrition, the prevention of diet-related illnesses, the promotion of physical activity and the fight against obesity.
- Health Promotion in EU Policies
The prevention of excessive weight and obesity requires an integrated strategy for the promotion of health that links up with other Community policies (on consumers, social, agriculture, environment, education, etc.) and benefits from their active support.
- The Action Programme in the field of Public Health
The questions of nutrition and the problem of obesity are covered in different parts of the action programme, notably in its section on information (collection of data on the epidemiology of obesity and on behavioural questions) and its section on the health factors (support for projects aimed at promoting physical exercise and healthy eating habits).
A White Paper was published by the Commission for the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on: A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues was published in May 2007. It provides for a partnership strategy alongside a national and EU-level plans of action.
Following the objectives of its policy, the European Commission, through its Health and Consumers Directorate General (DG SANCO) launched the Second Programme of Community Action in the Field of Health 2008-2013.
« The main focus of this strand is to address health determinants through health promotion and disease prevention measures, by supporting and developing broad measures of health promotion and disease prevention as well as specific risk reduction and elimination instruments. This involves promoting the positive determinants of health and fighting against the negative determinants in order to improve the quality of life in the population, and to reduce the burden of morbidity and mortality »
The 3 objectives of the Programme are :
- To improve citizens’ health security ;
- To promote health, including the reduction of health inequality ;
- To generate and disseminate health information and knowledge.
The management and the implementation of the Health Programme are the responsibility of the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers (EAHC).
FOOD is one of the new projects co-financed by the European Union
The project – a solution to public issues
The FOOD project promotes healthier lifestyles and working practices by giving individuals the knowledge and tools to act.
The two main objectives are :
- To educate employees in order to help them to improve their nutritional choices
- To improve the nutritional quality of nutrition on offer by liaising with food providers, such as restaurant owners, chefs and waiters
- To evaluate requirements and expectations regarding nutritional information
- To collect experts’ recommendations having understood the requirements and expectations.
- To transform these the recommendations into practical guidelines
- To adapt food supplies to meet the demands of consumers
- To develop constructive training strategies appropriate to the specific needs of different countries
- To facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to those who could most benefit.
The project will reach 6 countries during 2009 and 2010, inviting 52 000 employees (about 3 000 companies) to participate in the campaign, along with 5000 restaurants.
Why in the workplace?
- It is often difficult to have a proper healthy meal at lunch time, during the working day. The food on offer around workplaces can lack variety or be of poor nutritional content.
- Indeed, the workplace is the ideal place to both educate employees and also work towards improving their health, lifestyles and habits. Recent research has shown that the effects of improving employee nutrition - in addition to flexible working practices - can improve productivity up to 20% and reduce absenteeism.
This was underlined by the EU platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
In the WHITE PAPER of the EC on its nutrition strategy, it is underlined that :
« Businesses can also support the development of healthy lifestyles in the workplace. Together with employee organisations, they should also develop proposals/guidelines for ways in which companies of different sizes can introduce simple, cost-effective measures to promote healthy lifestyles of employees ».
- Acting through the working place is also a way to sensitise employers to corporate health policy as well, and to invite them to integrate such measures into the organisational structure.