We’ve come a long way with school lunches for kids in the U.S. but I think most children tend to simply eat what’s put before them, even if they complain. School lunches were so bad when I was a kid that my first step in activism was in the fourth grade when I and a group of classmates actually wrote a letter of complaint to our governor. He responded suggesting that we talk with our school officials. Our food never really got better, from what I recall.
With First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch initiative, we’re making progress, but the fact is, we need not be patting ourselves on the back. As reported by NPR, Americans are “late to the party” when it comes to school lunch makeovers. Other nations have been overhauling and revamping school lunch programs for over a decade.
From the NPR article:
East Ayrshire, Scotland launched a pilot program called Hungry for Success. That program went far beyond boosting nutrition. It also focused on nutrition education; trained cooks; put organic, local food in school meals; and made the cafeteria a cooler place to hang out.
So how’d it go over? A Worldwatch Institute report says 67 percent of the town’s children said school meals tasted better.
It was later adopted nationwide, and elements of the program were later picked up by the UK.
In response to growing obesity rates among children, Japan passed The Basic Law of Shokuiku in 2005. It requires kids to get nutrition and food origin education at all public schools.
So yeah, progress is progress and we’ll take it, but these photos put things in perspective. We have a couple of schools of thought floating around here in the U.S. Many people say that we’re the only nation in the world that’s fit for living and folks are basically being deprived in other developed countries (looking at you, right wing). Others say that we are trailing other nations in regards to school lunch quality and child nutrition. The fact is, we’re average, or maybe even below average, if these photos are indicative of the average school lunch around the world.
A disclaimer: I scoured the web for these photos. Most came from What’s for School Lunch, and others came from a Google search and Reddit. I can’t really make claims?as to whether or not these school lunches from around the world are the average school lunches for that country, the lunches of kids in private schools, or whether they are below average school lunches for that country. My guess is that it’s the same in other countries as it is here — school lunch quality can vary from place to place, and from day to day.
At any rate, this is educational. I’m pretty radical when it comes to school lunches. I think we should serve nutritious school lunches, snacks, AND breakfasts to all children. If they can afford to pay, great, but free lunches should be an option for children regardless of income. I think there’s no better investment a nation can make than in the health and nutrition of its children.
This image is from the book What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World by Andrea Curtis.
Australia School Lunch — Ham sandwich, cheese carrots, kiwi, and berries
Sweden School Lunch — Fish, pasta, vegetables
Austin, Texas, U.S.A. — Turkey taco salad, mashed potatoes, peach cobbler, and iced tea
Venezuela School Lunch — Chicken, rice, sauce, cucumber, tomatoe, fruit salad
Tanzania School Lunch — Ugali, chicken, greens, dipping sauce, watermelon salad
Russia School Lunch — Small pie with meat, a small pizza, and something called “sausage in dough”
Poland School Lunch — Chicken, mashed potatoes, cabbage, soup, drink
Philippines School Lunch — Lech?n kawali, liver sauce, rice
Malawi School Lunch — Beans, assorted vegetables, cabbage
Lithuania School Lunch — Potatoes, coleslaw and fried chicken
Madagascar School Lunch — Every day they eat rice and vegetables, and once a week they have meat
Haiti School Lunch — Brown rice and beans
Germany School Lunch — Pasta (spinach tagliatelle) with tomato sauce and olives, wholegrain bread, salad, vegetables, fruit salad and vanilla ice cream
Gambia School Lunch — Rice and other things (we can’t tell what it is)
Finland School Lunch — Cauliflower, beef, carrot coleslaw, mashed potatoes
Finland School Lunch (vegetarian)
Djibouti School Lunch – Rice and beans in sauce or curry
Canadian International School, Bangalore — Fish nuggets, spring roll, salad, veggie noodles.
China School Lunch — A fish, scrambled egg with tomato sauce, rice, spinach, cauliflower, and soup
Cambodia School Lunch — Rice
India School Lunch — Rice and curry
Norway School Lunch — Lasagna, baby carrots, small olives, and red grapes
Ghana School Lunch — Rice
Taiwan School Lunch — Sweet and sour pork with pineapple, radish, carrots and green pepper, vegetable stir fry with garlic, fish ball stew with cabbage, carrots and wood ear mushroom, and soup, seaweed and egg drop
Malaysia School Lunch — Noodle, prawn, fish-cake, eggs, a packet of vegatable and fruit juice, and an apple
U.K. School Lunch — Hamburger, salad and shredded carrot
Belarus School Lunch — Looks like pickles, soup, beets (?), bread, tea, potatoes?
Sudah School Lunch — Maybe rice?
Slovakia School Lunch — Smoked mackerel, bread, red pepper and tomato salad, kiwi, apple, and a milk cake
Spain School Lunch — Tomato fusilli, deep fried fish, salad, bread, and an apple
Honduras School Lunch – Rice porridge
Kenya School Lunch — Avocado
Singapore School Lunch — Mushroom spaghetti, chicken chop and potato wedges
Czeck Republic School Lunch — Soup, rice, chicken, dessert, juice, hot tea
Estonia School Lunch — Stew with meat, salty cucumber, bread, tea
Shanghai German School — Hot dog, french fries, carrot salad, slice of cake
South Korea School Lunch — Kimchi, pork, bean paste sauce (sammjang), steamed cabbage, soup
France School Lunch — Baguette, salad, couscous, mixed veggies in sauce, meat
Japan School Lunch — Mabo Tofu, fish cake, apple, boiled quail egg, beef w/bean sprouts and rice with salmon
U.S. School Lunch — Beef and Cheese Enchiladas, Spanish Rice, beans a la charra, strawberries, skim milk
Ukraine School Lunch — Soup, macaroni, pickle, bread, sliced hot dog
Ukraine School Lunch — Soup with potatoes, buckwheat, sausage patty, pickle
Israel School Lunch — Falafel, pitta chips, yoghurt and cucumber sauce, with green leaves
Brazil School Lunch — Ground meat and veggies
Brazil School Lunch (I know I did Brazil twice, but this looked good) — Meat in BBQ sauce, rice, green salad, pudding, and a strawberry juice
Thailand School Lunch — Chicken, white rice, green beans, fried egg
Tiffany Willis is the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she has spent most of her career actively working with ?the least of these? and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics she discusses,?like her?Facebook page,?follow her on Twitter, or?connect with her via LinkedIn. She also has?a?grossly neglected personal blog?and a?literary quotes blog that is a labor of love. Find her somewhere and join the discussion.