Tokyo, Japan – A school lunch in Japan is seen with national pride, as the meals are healthy and appetizing, rarely frozen, and made from scratch. Students are given food similar to meals they can get at home.
In most districts of Japan, unless a student is in high school or has specific dietary restrictions, they are not allowed to bring a lunch. There are no vending machines. In both elementary and middle school, students engage in a communal experience during mealtime, dining in their classrooms. The students don coats and caps and assist in serving meals, composed of traditional ingredients, to their fellow classmates. Fried food portions are limited, and dessert is not offered.
The Washing Post reports, Officials at Adachi Ward, say they run a fairly standard school lunch program in the ward’s 71 elementary schools and 37 middle schools. Those standard meals are considered restaurant-worthy, and have been published in a full-color cookbook focusing on its best school meals.
Tatsuji Shino, the principal at Umejima Elementary School in Tokyo, says:
“Parents hear their kids talking about what they had for lunch, and kids ask them to re-create the meals at home.”
There is little to no bureaucratic interference from Japan’s central government other than setting basic nutritional guidelines. Schools employ nutritionists. Funding for lunches is handled locally. Municipalities pay for labor costs, and parents are billed monthly for the cost of ingredients, about $3 per meal. There are reduced payment and free options for poorer families.
Children in Japan have one of the lowest rates of obesity worldwide. Japan also has the highest rate of life expectancy of 82.6 years. WebMD reports the Japanese diet focuses on energy and health, the common sense rules of food: eat more fish, vegetables, and fruit, serve smaller portions, eat mindfully and slowly, and add healthy options like tofu and rice. Culturally, children are inclined to eat what is set before them, instead of defying what’s on their plate.
The United States has fallen short in comparison, failing to produce school meals that are healthy, tasty, and affordable. Most food options provided in school cafeterias are often fried, fatty, and salty, frozen and reheated, and rarely if ever made from scratch.
With obesity on the rise, many have attempted to use their celebrity and political influence to improve the average American school lunch. Chef Jamie Oliver uses his Food Revolution to reinforce the importance of a balanced, healthy school provided meal. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, championed for schools to promote menus with controversial dietary restrictions.
What would be the best way to improve meal plans in US schools?
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