School Lunch Around The World: How Does The U.S. Compare?

Patricia Didelot

School lunches made news late last year when frustrated students posted what looked like disgusting foods served on their trays to social media. The slight was directed at First Lady, Michelle Obama -- the leading advocate of healthy school lunches -- with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.

Now, thanks to SweetGreen on Tumblr via Huffington Post, we can truly see how school lunches in the U.S. compare with those served in countries around the world. From Brazil to Finland to France and South Korea. The stark contrast is stunning and should serve as food for thought -- no pun intended -- for school programs all across America.

First let's take a look at what some of those fed-up students continue to post on Twitter. Kids eating at U.S. schools are clearly not happy about the lunches their cafeterias are serving them.

"The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) makes it possible for all school children in the United States to receive a nutritious lunch every school day," the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website explains. However, despite the good intentions and many beneficiaries -- 30.7 million children in the 2012-2013 school year -- the program has not been successful with the kids as shown by their social media posts.

Looking at those photos, many can understand why kids are not interested in eating the school lunches, and either threw them out untouched or only ate a part of them. But children in other countries have very different choices that actually look delicious.

Let's take a trip around the world as shared by SweetGreen -- a healthy, quick-serve restaurant that values local and organic ingredients -- on Tumblr.


Small portion of Penne pasta, fish over a bed of lettuce, grapes, tomato salad, and crusty bread.


Chicken breasts with Orzo, grape leaves with stuffing, cucumber and tomato salad, Greek yogurt with a few pomegranate pieces, and oranges.


Boiled meat, sweet potatoes, green beans, kiwi, brie cheese, and apples.


Rice & black beans, pork stew with veggies, plantains, salad, and multi-grain bread.


Shrimp over a bed of rice and veggies, gazpacho soup, pepper salad, multi-grain bread, and half of an orange.

It is important to point out that SweetGreen is not attempting to criticize the existing meal programs in the U.S., but to "show the possibilities of well-balanced meals around the world, and how much opportunity exists in our own backyard."

The photos, while not of actual school lunches around the world, were created based on photos shared by kids from other countries online and the company's own research on other lunch programs.

What do you think of how the U.S. compares to the world in their school lunch programs?

[Image via Shutterstock]