Unlike school lunches in America and the UK, school lunches in Japan are a rich cultural experience. The students prepare the meals themselves and learn about the nutritional value of their food. Grown locally, the food includes a balanced menu of rice, fish, vegetables and soups. The japanese students also learn how to cooperate and practice etiquette skills as they help each other serve food and clean up too. This helps children acquire “a sense of gratitude” and “spirit to appreciate foods and social manners,” writes government school expert Nobuko Tanaka and Miki Miyoshi.
Though other countries struggle to design school meals that are healthy, sustainable and cost-effective, schools in Japan are able to give students the sort of food they would get at home. More than a whopping 10 million children recieve delicious fresh food that is far from the processed meals that one would expect to get in a typical American school. “Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education, not a break from it,” Masahiro Oji, a government director of school health education in Japan. “What is most difficult for me to explain is why we can do this and other countries cannot.
“Everything is cooked on site,” school nutritionist Kimii Fujii said. “We even make our own broth.”
“Parents hear their kids talking about what they had for lunch,” Tatsuji Shino, the principal at Umejima Elementary School in Tokyo, told the Washington Post, “and kids ask them to re-create the meals at home.”
Given their approach to food, Japan does not struggle with childhood and adolescent disorders. According to government data, Japan’s child obesity rate, always among the world’s lowest, has declined for each of the past six years.
Image Credit: Osamu Iwasaki