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School Lunch Menus from Around the World

By Madeline Holler |

school lunch, childhood obesity

Lunchtime! In the Czech Republic, school lunch looks a little more delicious than in the U.S.

American school lunches are kind of notorious. They’re usually not just unhealthy, but ugly, inedible and largely wasted.

There’s no shortage of ideas for fixing the nation’s school cafeterias. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has come over from the U.K. to try to do it. His efforts, unfortunately, haven’t been the revolution he hoped for.

There’s plenty wrong with American school lunches on the whole, and not just what kids eat but the entire lunchroom experience. And also when school kids sit down for a mid-day meal. But from the standpoint of food, what’s the alternative. What are kids eating in other parts of the world?

Buzzfeed has a pulled together photos of school lunches from the U.S., U.K., Japan, France, Singapore, Korea, Ghana and a few other countries. And one guy has started a blog What’s for School Lunch, a fascinating peek at what kids are eating around the world just after math class. These may or may not be representative of most school lunches in those countries. It’s interesting to see what and how the school cafeteria food is served.

I think what also could tell a story would be the trash cans in the cafeteria. American schools often complain of the amount of food that gets thrown out. Is there less tossed away in, say, France, than in Ghana, where far less food is served. That enormous plate of pommes frites, while accompanied by mussels and an artichoke, adds up to a ton of food. Does it all get eaten? Should it?

I worked in a Japanese school for two years and, let me tell you, that plate of curry and potato salad (the last in the Japan list)? Hands down, the most delicious school lunch I have ever eaten. But talk about front-loading the day’s calories.

Still, comparing the curry or plate of French fries or even the bland little U.K. lunch to the pics representing U.S. school lunches is just sad where nothing at all on the trays is fresh.

Which lunches look the best in your opinion? Do you like attempts to change U.S. school lunches or is it too little, too late for your home-lunch eating kids?

school lunch, child nutrition

What's on the menu at the German school in Shanghai.

Photos via here and here.

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “School Lunch Menus from Around the World

  1. Rosana says:

    I don’t understand why school lunches have to be nasty here in the US. Isn’t a requirement for the employees in the cafeteria, to know how to cook? If no, then it should be. If so, then why can’t they fix meals from scratch?

  2. goddess says:

    My gosh- the French and Czech Republics’ lunches look fabulous!

  3. Kikiriki says:

    School lunches are nasty in the US pretty much for two or three reasons. 1: the US is committed to spending little more than a dollar a day per child, which is not enough for fresh food and meat. 2. The US also wanted to take the guesswork out of hot lunch (and lessen the possibility of food poisoning or undercooked meat), so in a lot of schools, lunch workers do little more than heat up pre-cooked food. That pre-cooked food is pretty much always processed in some way (think mystery chicken nuggets or those ugly hamburger patties). 3. The US has contracts with nationwide companies because they are cheaper and easier to deal with, rather than having local relationships with local vendors and farmers. That means that food needs to be shipped, which means more canned or frozen food rather than fresh. Et voila! Le crap Americain.

  4. Amanda says:

    I don’t understand why it’s the school’s responsibility to provide a hot lunch anyway. Why not just offer simple sandwiches, salads, fruit, and yogurt or something? When my son is old enough to go to school, though, I will probably pack his lunch everyday, just like my mom did for me.

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