Healthy and sustainable eating significantly contributes to optimal childhood development, and teaching children about the origins of food can ensure a lifetime adoption of healthy behaviours, according to the National Dairy Council (NDC).

To support the School Milk Scheme, the NDC has launched a new competition to encourage pupils to make sustainable choices in their daily lives. The Eating Sustainably Classroom Challenge will be open to all schools that participate in the School Milk Scheme.

Teachers will each receive a unique login and password upon registration for their specific class; pupils will then be assigned classroom and home tasks that will encourage them to eat sustainably and adopt sustainable habits.

This may include eating food produced locally, recycling food packaging, reducing food waste, limiting food from the top shelf of the food pyramid, making use of leftovers, and learning about the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals.

Teachers can provide a link in for parents, allowing them to support the children’s activities in the home, e.g., making soup from leftovers, placing food scraps in the compost bin etc.

Commenting on the initiative, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said: “This is a great initiative from the National Dairy Council designed to encourage pupils and parents to understand the importance of living more sustainably and to carry out the practical everyday changes that will really make a difference to our planet in the future.

“Every small change can make a difference in building a healthier world for our future generations and its children and young people who can really help do drive this change.

“We must remember that dairy is part of the foundations of a really healthy diet at every age group. Ireland is a leader in sustainable dairy production and plays a key role in feeding people across the globe sustainably.”

The Minister continued: “I am pleased to note the inclusion of the UN Sustainable Goals and particularly pleased that the reduction of food waste is one of the tasks included in the challenge.

“Information and education are key for our children of today who will be our consumers of tomorrow,” McConalogue said.

NDC initiative

Pupils will receive points for each positive action they complete, 30 points for challenges completed as a class, and five points for tasks completed at home.

An online leader board will provide real-time updates on points scored by classes in which they will be able to view their progress compared to other schools partaking in the challenge.

The top three schools will receive special grass-growing kits for every class in their school.

The Eating Sustainably Classroom Challenge will run from Monday, March 28 until Friday, April 1, 2022.

The NDC said it is also taking registrations for the School Milk Scheme for the 2022 school year. Only children registered in participating schools can avail of the service.

Free fridges are supplied to participating schools to ensure that milk is served chilled and fresh.