Research project
32 | monthsEDSUSDIETS

Curriculum application of educational and empowering models aimed at promoting healthy and sustainable diets in university canteens

Related toSpoke 07

Principal investigators
Francesca Scazzina
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Task involved

Task 7.1.4.

Aims to understand nutritional constraints towards healthy and sustainable diets.

Task 7.2.1.

Task 7.2.1 will build on Task 7.1.5. with a twofold aim: a) develop common guidelines to facilitate the designing and testing procedures and goals of interventions; b) develop and test a set of tools for the measurement, monitoring and evaluation of eating and food related behaviours.

Task 7.3.2.

Development and application of educational and empowering models aimed at promoting healthy and sustainable diets (also including food waste reduction, fight against food neophobia), in specific target populations, with the support of advanced and innovative technological tools and innovative technological systems to evaluate users’ perception.

Task 7.4.3.

Building on task T7.2.3 and WPT7.3, and considering regional differences, this task will develop a set of policies aiming to promote a transition towards healthy and sustainable diets within schools focusing on local and culturally acceptable products and on the promotion of the values of the Mediterranean diet.

Project deliverables


Model to elaborate acceptable dietary patterns with low environmental impact (M18) D7.1.4.3. Report on improved nutritional patterns (M30)


Guidelines for the design and testing procedures of tailored interventions in different settings (M12)


Development of a fully functioning pilot model in one large public education institution (at least 1000 involved students) (M18)


Expansion and adaptation of the pilot to at least three more public contexts where prevalence of overweight and obesity is recognized (M30)


Strategic guidelines for the implementation of innovative nutrition and lifestyle educational models in public education institution (M36)

Interaction with other spokes

State of the art

Through the improvement of the food offer and the implementation of a supportive environment, university cafeterias become a strategic setting to advocate healthy and sustainable nutrition in both university staff and students. 
To influence food choices, there is a need to identify and understand determinants of people’s behavior focusing both on the interpersonal level and the food environment, which refers to the physical, economic, socio-cultural and policy conditions that shape access, affordability, safety, and food preferences and includes the social network, physical context, and policy-related factors. People more conscious of current environmental issues are more prone to shift toward more sustainable eating habits. Therefore, increasing students’ literacy about health and environmental impact of food systems seems to be a promising strategy for raising awareness and building the capacity to adopt food practices that enhance health and well-being. Research activities carried out in previous projects (NudIFood, EFSA EU-FORA Programme, Su-Eatable Life project Strength2Food project) will be used as references.

Operation plan

The research will involve different activities as reported below.

  • Food consumption habits, food choices and plate waste, nutrition and food sustainability knowledge of Parma University students attending the university cafeteria will be investigated to obtain a baseline reference (11-14 months).
  • The canteen dining rooms will be re-designed to promote users’ engagement and increase students’ literacy about the impact of food on health and the environment based on the insights/results obtained in previous projects (NudIFood and Su-Eatable Life) (15-24 months). The canteen environment change will be supported by UNIBO (see WP 7.1) in collaboration with ER.GO.
  • University students will be offered a set of online lessons about food, nutrition, and the link between food, health and the environment (15-24 months).
  • The educational material and information on the food offered in the canteen will be made available to the students in a digital application (15-24 months) the customization of which could be addressed thanks to the support of UNIMIB.
  • After discussion about feasibility with the caterer, optimized University menus will be developed with the use of more sustainable recipes in terms of nutritional value and environmental impact thanks to the collaboration with other partners, such as CREA-AN (15-24 months).
  • Proper communication campaigns will be applied to enhance users’ engagement and to improve their knowledge and awareness about the impact of eating habits and food-related behaviors on health and the environment (15-24 months).
  • During and after the intervention the same outcome variables compared to baseline (i.e., food consumption habits, food choices and plate waste, nutrition and food sustainability knowledge will be monitored to assess the efficacy of the intervention itself (15-32 months).

Expected results

  • Renovation of the university canteen environment through nudging techniques.
  • Reducing the environmental impact of the canteen menus fulfilling consumer’s needs and preferences. 
  • Raising awareness and shifting food choices among young adults (university students) as a promising strategy to achieve healthy and sustainable eating behaviors. This will be done through the involvement of stakeholders and communication campaigns that will be developed and implemented.
  • Quantification of food waste and identification of strategies to reduce it.
  • Development of guidelines/recommendation based on the most significant findings that will constitute the deliverables from task 7.4. Given the huge amount of food processed daily by canteens, virtuous transformations in this sector can become a benchmark for other catering services.