Lunch takes on a different nature when treated as an education period, rather than a recreational one.
The United States and Japan couldn’t be more different when it comes to school lunch programs. While the U.S. is considering cutting funding to school food programs for underprivileged kids, saying there’s insufficient evidence that feeding kids improves academic results, Japan places a high priority on feeding its schoolchildren healthy, homemade meals on a daily basis.
An article in The Atlantic’s City Lab blog, titled “Japan’s school lunch program puts others to shame,” explores how and why this nation-wide program has been so successful. More than 10 million elementary and secondary school students in 94 percent of the country’s schools are fed through this program, and the food they eat is a far cry from the greasy, reheated cafeteria food that features prominently at American schools.
The Japanese meals are prepared daily from scratch by a team of cooks who work in the school’s kitchen. Often they use vegetables grown on school property that are planted and tended by classes. From an early age, the kids get used to eating healthy, well-balanced meals that would appeal to many adults.
What really sets Japan apart, however, is the fact that it views lunch time as an educational period, not a recreational one. Lunch is a time for teaching kids important skills about serving food, table etiquette, and cleaning up – the polar opposite of the notoriously wild, uncontrolled, and messy lunch hour in U.S. schools that must be every janitor’s nightmare.
The Japanese government takes its responsibility seriously to teach kids good eating habits. Mimi Kirk writes for City Lab:
“There’s a term in Japanese for ‘food and nutrition education’: Shokuiku. In 2005, with more children battling eating disorders, the government enacted a law on Shokuiku that encourages schools to educate children on good food choices. In 2007, the government advocated for hiring diet and nutrition teachers.