40 years of subsidised meals for higher education students
The meal subsidy programme administered by Kela offers students in higher education healthy and balanced meals at an affordable price. By eating their main meal of the day at a student restaurant, students can improve their overall diet.
Higher education students can get a subsidised lunch by presenting their student ID at around 320 Finnish restaurants. The meal subsidy programme provides a EUR 1.94 discount off the price of student meals. Students pay up to EUR 2.60 for the regular lunch option and EUR 3.75–4.95 for the special option prepared from more expensive ingredients. The meal subsidy programme has a total annual budget of about EUR 32 million. Students eat around 14.6 million subsidised meals per year.
The meal subsidy programme for higher education students was introduced in the autumn of 1979. In 1996, the programme expanded to cover students attending a university of applied sciences.
Student restaurant meals can help students improve their health and wellbeing
According to the University Student Health Survey (KOTT 2016), students who eat their main meal of the day in a student restaurant are most likely to achieve a healthy diet. Student restaurants are guided in their lunch offerings by a set of recommendations issued by Kela and the State Nutrition Advisory Board. Restaurants should offer daily a meal which is priced for student budgets, provides about a third of students’ daily energy requirements and, along with the main course, includes a salad, bread with spread and a drink. Meals that meet the recommendations are marked daily on the menu.
According to the University Student Health Survey, one fifth of higher education students have never used student restaurants.
They could be online students or working alongside their studies, but detailed information is not available, Sari Miettunen of Kela says.
A new university student health survey will be conducted in spring 2020 which will for the first time look at reasons that make students less likely to eat at student restaurants. The survey will also explore other dietary issues relevant to higher education students.
The Finnish Student Health Service has conducted a university student health survey every four years since the year 2000. From now on, the survey will be carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare.
Joint Kela and Finnish Student Health Service campaign to promote student restaurant lunches
Kela and the Finnish Student Health Service are organising a campaign in the autumn term of 2019 to remind students of the meal subsidy and the benefits of a healthy diet. It encourages students to use the meal subsidy to eat a healthy meal in a student restaurant every day.
Various campaign materials will be displayed in student restaurants to help students put together a balanced, right-sized meal. The campaign also reminds students to present their student ID or Kela meal subsidy card at the student restaurant.