FoodStep - a sustainable health-promoting model for food services and early childhood education and care


1.2.2021 - 30.11.2024

Unit at THL:

Health and Well-Being Promotion

On other websites:


The aim of the FoodStep project is to develop a sustainable operating model that will support children’s healthy diets and reduce the climate impacts of food provision in early childhood education and care (ECEC).

In practice this means:

  • Increasing provision of vegetables and sustainable fish in food offered in ECEC and adjusting intake of meat and milk to reasonable levels to meet recommendations.
  • Advancing food education, reducing food waste and assessing the climate and financial impacts of the shift towards a more plant-based diet.

The operational model will be designed in cooperation with the professionals from municipalities, food services and ECEC as well as children and their parents.


The FoodStep project will take place in four different municipalities: Ilmajoki, Kauhajoki, Kauhava and Lahti (the European Green Capital 2021), within 23 day-care centres, including four hundred 3-5-year-old children (200 in the intervention group and 200 in the control group).

We will assess children’s overall diets and nutritional status as well as the climate impacts of their diets. In addition, we will survey families’, decision makers’, food service workers’ and ECEC professionals’ knowledge, attitudes and practices in relation to nutrition and the climate impacts of food. We will also measure the food waste from the day-care centres as well as the climate and financial implications of offering more plant-based foods.

The FoodStep project will utilise the experiences and results related to the health-, climate- and natural biodiversity-impacts of food that were gained from our previous studies, such as the DAGIS-study and the Nature Step towards Wellbeing -study that were implemented in day-care centres in close cooperation with ECEC, food services and families. 

DAGIS (Increased Health and Wellbeing in Preschools)

Nature Step towards Wellbeing (Luontoaskel hyvinvointiin, in Finnish)


The FoodStep project is implemented and coordinated by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos, THL) alongside the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke), the University of Helsinki and Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

In addition, the Finnish Society for Food Education (Ruukku), the Viikki Food Design Factory, the Health Services Group of the Päijät-Häme region (Päijät-Hämeen hyvinvointiyhtymä), Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and University of Turku will all be cooperating in the project.


The main funder of the project is The Academy of Finland. 


Suvi Virtanen
Research Professor
e-mail: [email protected]