The Challenge

Research found that the prevalence of childhood obesity increased with age and disadvantaged children are in greater risk. At the same time, the concern with sustainable consumption increases in Portugal, but there is still a lack of suitable information and market transparency to help consumers including parents make appropriate choices. Schools are aware of both challenges but lack human and pedagogical resources to tackle them.

The Practice(s)

SONAE MC (Continente) is a leading retail company in Portugal and is part of a group (SONAE) that adopted a sustainability business strategy nearly 30 years ago. SONAE MC seeks to influence the upstream ecosystem of sustainable production by producer involvement, nutricional labelling, plastics reduction and recycled plastic incorporation, etc. and its downstream eco-system of sustainable consumption and promotion of healthier lifestyles by participating in the education of young consumers and customers.

The Missão Continente School Programme is an educational Programme designed to help students, parents and teachers to develop a better and healthier relationship with food,  conscious consumption and an active lifestyle. It is characterised by multiple cross-sectoral partnerships: designed and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, with the Ministry of Health, municipal councils, schools and academia, with CEIDSS (Centro de Estudos e Investigação em Dinâmicas Sociais e Saúde), and with other partners. This project allowed a connection between children, the company’s employees and supermarkets that in classroom or during visits at supermarkets can raise children awareness of the importance to change eating habits, consumption habits, lifestyle habits. Catalysing the engagement of their teachers and families, because children are a driving factor of behaviour change, in an effort to work with younger generations towards a sustainable future.

The Result(s)

In Portugal, one in three children suffers from obesity. The country has evolved, for the better in the last decade, but the pandemic may have, in part, reversed this process.

In the last school year, 437 schools, 40,619 students and 2,756 teachers participated in the Escola Missão Continente program. Mission Continente School will evaluate, from this school year and for four years, the impact of healthy eating in students of 44 schools of the 1st cycle.

Students and teachers, since the creation of the project, have globally evaluated the program as Good and Very Good, both in terms of the pedagogical resources made available, or at the level of challenges that help children consolidate learning and mobilise the educational community for action.

Due to the pandemic, the program had to undergo a major restructuring, having transferred everything that existed in face-to-face format to online. The redefinition of methodologies allowed for the creation of new tools and working methods that ended up impacting a greater number of children and schools, which in face-to-face mode did not allow.

Advice to Peers

  • In Portugal cooperation between the private and public sectos to offer schools innovative pedagogical contents on topics of public concern has not been controversial as there has been a consensus on the division of roles and responsibility of each actor.
  • The role of each partner is different and their collaboration in the co-construction of the project enrichs it creating added value for the school community, to better meet the needs of schools, teachers and students.In view of public budget constraints the approach has taken advantage of existing resources and the financing capacity of the private sector.
  • It’s important that the impact assessment is made by a player totally independent of the private and public promoters.
  • This kind of project is impactfull if it is long term. For example, the impact assessment will last for three years, following the same students.

Further Resources


Nádia Reis, Diretora de Brand Engagement | Direção de Marketing,
Modelo Continente Hipermercados