A Global Tour of School Lunches


The Sweet Potato

School-provided lunches take many forms even in the same country on occasion.

  When traveling around the world, one thing is inevitable— different cuisines and types of food. While American school lunches may seem irrelevant and only a minuscule part of the school day, other countries take a completely different approach to school-provided meals.

  “The lunch [Sanderson High School’s] is pretty good, certainly something that makes lunch exciting because of the variety of foods.” Current Sanderson sophomore Nick McDonough expanded on his thoughts. “The once issue is the lunchroom is not the best smelling, that’s the only thing that needs to be improved upon.”

  Since the U.S. Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, it is estimated that 32 million children have been eating healthier and more nutritious school-provided meals. Although this was around 11 years ago, American children are still enjoying the effects of higher standards for school lunches. Now, let’s see how America’s school lunch programs compare to those of the rest of the world. 


  Brazil’s school feeding program provides food for more than 42 million children. As this is part of the country’s Zero Hunger Program, malnutrition and child hunger in the country have declined quite steadily. Average school lunches in Brazil will consist of rice and beans, meat, an egg or fish, vegetables, fruit or fruit juice. In Brazil, all school lunches are free, as access to healthy food straight from local farms is seen as a human right.


  In Japan, school lunches are known as “Kyushoku.” This nationwide school lunch program began in the 1950s and is currently in the majority of elementary and junior high schools across the nation of Japan. A typical Kyushoku will have a starch (rice, bread, or noodles), a soup, a vegetable, and meat dish, and milk to drink. On some occasions, dishes such as a curry (with a starch and a meat combined) or spaghetti and meatballs will be served.

South Africa

  The South African National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is designed for students to receive, at minimum, one nutritious meal per day to enhance their learning abilities. “According to its 2013/2014 annual report, the programme has reached more than 9 million learners in quintile 1, 2, and 3 schools.” The official government website of South Africa adds more about the country-wide school lunch program, “The programme also teaches learners and parents how to lead a healthy lifestyle, and promotes the development of school vegetable gardens.”

  As for an average school lunch in South Africa, stews such as potjiekos include an assortment of meat, vegetables, potatoes, and spices. When not served stews like potjiekos, students in South Africa will be given meals made with locally sourced fruits and veggies, such as corn, squash, sweet potatoes, yams, and on some days, rice and porridge. 


  It is noted that a large percentage of children in Australia pack their own lunches. Even though this may be the case, Australian canteens (equivalent to cafeterias in America) serve snacks and standard entrees like hot dogs, meat pies, and a variety of salads and sandwiches. Certain parts of the nation have implemented the Healthy School Canteen Strategy, which helps oppose childhood obesity by banning the sale of soft drinks and limiting portion size.


  For many Chinese students, lunch is not a long period of time, as many pack their own lunches. Because of China’s large size and very diverse areas, there is no nationwide school lunch program in place to set nutrition and portion size standards. Even though China is so large, a meal served from a canteen looks very similar across the country; rice covered with a variety of meats and veggies, beef noodle bowls, soup, dumplings, or in some cases, sweet pancakes.


  Much like China, Russia does not have a nationwide program that has set standards for serving size, nutritional value, etc. Because of this, there are a multitude of school lunch programs throughout the country.

  “There was one day at school where lunch was just cheese on bread,” Sanderson sophomore Kendal Morgan explained. “They [the school] could definitely try and go a little more nutritious by at least serving more protein and vegetable-based meals.”

  School lunches can oftentimes show how much care each country has for its children. Countries across the world prove with their nationwide lunch programs how valuable learning and a proper, healthy meal are to each young student.