School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

(photo credit: chrissam42)

Since the focus of this site is bentos for lunch, I’m always fascinated by the subject of lunch in general. An interesting article in the Washington Post appeared yesterday, about school lunches in Japan. As is common with such articles in the mainstream media it is written rather provocatively, starting with the opening paragraph which states: “In Japan, school lunch means a regular meal, not one that harms your health. The food is grown locally and almost never frozen. There’s no mystery in front of the meat. From time to time, parents even call up with an unusual question: Can they get the recipes?” Since the intended audience is American, it seems to be implying that school lunches in the United States ‘harm your health’, come in frozen and are cursed with ‘mystery meat’. Yikes.

I’m not sure about the school lunches at this school (which is in Adachi ward in central Tokyo) being so delicious that kids want the recipes, but contrary to what some of the comments to the article imply, from my experience it seems to be a fairly typical public elementary school. There’s an interesting graphic here which shows some school lunches from various public and private elementary schools around Japan (the ones on the far right are historical lunches, from the 1950s and the 1920s respectively), and as you can see there isn’t a huge amount of difference.

Squid Fritters
(photo credit: chrissam42)

I had a very similar experience with school lunch in Japan when I was in elementary school decades ago, and talking to my sister my niece and nephew have had similar experiences too. Here are the main characteristics of school lunch in Japan:

  • School lunch is called kyuushoku (給食). Most elementary schools have school lunch programs, but they aren’t as common in kindergarten or middle school and high school. (Many universities have cafeterias where students can purchase meals.)
  • The menus, called kondate (献立) are planned by a certified nutritionist (called an eiyoushi (栄養士)) every month. Some schools have their own nutritionist, and others have district-wide ones. In my day the monthly menu was handed out as a printout to take home, but nowadays they are also published online. A Google Image Search for “school lunch menu” (給食献立表) turns up a ton of them, from all around the country.
  • A typical school lunch has a carb, which can be rice, bread or pasta/noodles of some kind; 1 or 2 proteins (not always fish); some vegetables; and often a soup of some sort. Sometimes there was a small dessert too, like a caramel pudding or something. A container or bottle of whole milk is always included. This was initiated by the federal government in the postwar period, based on the belief that dairy was critical to the health of children, and continues to this day. The menus are both traditional Japanese and western or yohshoku (western-style Japanese). (The comparison chart of typical school lunch menus that accompanies the Washington Post article does show the diversity somewhat - they have “Indian style curry” as well as pasta, in addition the stereotypical rice-and-miso-soup, but it seem to emphasize the menus that have the ‘weird Japanese food’ like squid and konnyaku (devil’s tongue, OMG!) Incidentally, the American menu on the left doesn’t look that unhealthy to me either.)
  • As the article states, lunch is brought to each classroom on a cart, and the kids take turns serving to the class. A Japanese classroom is divided into han or groups of 6 or so. The han unit performs a lot of activities together, from chores such as serving lunch and cleaning the classroom to walking together as a group on school outings and such. School lunch serving duty works like this: the rolling cart or a folding table with all the food and utensils for the class is set up. The kids in the han that’s on duty usually put on a paper cap (rather like a shower cap) or headscarf, and sometimes a smock or coverall. The other kids go up to the serving station, also in hans, and are served by the on-duty kids. Preportioned food like milk and bread rolls are just placed on the tray, while soups and stews and such have to be ladled out. If there’s some left over after everyone is served, there are seconds for the hungry kids. When the kids are done they bring their trays up the serving station, which is taken away by staff. Teachers aren’t obligated to each the school lunch (at least they weren’t in my school, or in the school my niece goes to) but they often do, otherwise they bring a bento. (By the way, cleaning duty means sweeping up and dusting the classroom and the hallway outside the classroom, not heavy-duty cleaning like doing the bathrooms and public areas and such. Japanese schools still have janitorial staffs for that kind of thing. The idea is to instill a sense of responsibility in the kids, that they have to clean up after themselves.)

(photo credit: vincentvds2, who also has a lot of other pictures of school lunches from a school in Yokohama in his Flickr stream.)

Japanese school lunches are fairly healthy but aren’t perfect by any means. In recent years concerns have been raised about how they aren’t as healthy or balanced as they used to be. On the other hand, there has been a concerted effort to use school lunch as part of shokuiku (食育), or food education. I wrote about shokuiku a while back in the context of bento lunches at a kindergarten. In some areas they’ve taken the concept of shokuiku to educate kids on local and traditional foods, incorporating such items into the menu. Of course there is a struggle between what the adults want the kids to eat vs. what the kids really want to eat. Even in my school days decades ago, the most popular lunch items were things like spaghetti with meat sauce and curry rice, and kids these days are if anything even more fond of ‘western’ food than we were.

What you really don’t hear about in Japan are complaints about geographical or class differences in school lunches. As I stated above, school lunch quality is pretty much the same regardless of where the school ls, and whether it’s a public school or an expensive private school. This seems to be a huge point of contention in the U.S. though whenever the subject of school lunch comes up - how some school districts can ‘afford’ fresh cooked meals while others much rely on premade, frozen fare. This probably has a lot to do with how schools are funded and perceived in each country, but that is rather beyond the scope of this post.

So, what are your thoughts on the Washington Post article and school lunches in general? What are school lunches like at your kids’ schools, or how were they when you were in school? Do you think bringing your own lunch from home, or sending your kids off to school with a packed lunch, is a better way?

(ETA) Japanese school lunches aren’t low calorie or low fat

Although the Washington Post article itself doesn’t mention it, many of the comments to it talk about how Japanese kids must be avoiding obesity since the lunches are low in calories. This is a wrong assumption actually - those lunches are not really calorie restricted. The idea is that growing children need plenty of calories for growth and to give them energy for study, play and physical activity. The milk that’s distributed for instance is full fat, not low fat, and many menus incorporate deep fried foods and so on - but in small quantities. (You can see deep fried and breaded fish in the photo above, and the one above that has some kind of sphere shaped deep fried food which I’m guessing is made from squid or something. There are many kinds of fried foods in Japanese cuisine.) Childhood obesity is a growing problem in Japan, but still not the major one it is in places like the U.S., and it’s usually thought to be something that should be dealt with at home, as well as via increased physical activity rather than calorie restriction.

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Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

When I was on JET years ago, the kyuushoku was really good. I still really would like the recipe for their pumpkin potage. That was my favorite meal! And they had a really good foil baked salmon that I've learned to recreate.

Once a month they'd pick a country and do a meal themed on that country's cuisine. And once a year there would be a lunch where absolutely everything came from our town.

Of course, it was a very small, very rural school system, so I think they were able to do a lot to keep the food quality high, and deliver while still hot.

And I think it was good to have those meals because, just like the kids, I did learn a lot about not having 'suki/kirai.' I hate raw tomatoes. But I had to be a good example to the kids. (I only drew the line at natto and some kind of seaweed jelly.) I learned to appreciate and like a lot of foods that I didn't like initially.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Natto is one of those things that I suppose you either love or you hate. I lived in Tokyo for eight years and natto was one of the things that I learned to love. I appreciate its taste so much that I have learned to make my own and often enjoy it for breakfast along with rice, umiboshi and a bowl of miso/tofu soup. :)

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

You... you like umeboshi? Dear mother of mercy...

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

You have, at the end, nailed the issue exactly on the head. It's a matter of budget. Nutritionists and culinary planning people cost money, preparing actual meals from fresh ingredients cost money, providing lunch for every student costs money. The US has chosen lower local taxes over providing these kinds of lunches.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I read this article yesterday and loved it! In fact, I was debating dropping the link to you in an email. I was fascinated by the differences, and the idea of a healthy, hearty lunch. I went to school (USA) in the 80s and 90s, and hated school lunches. They were gross tasting and unhealthy. I brown-bagged it every day. Usual lunch for me (made by me, about age 7-on): PB&J sandwich on whole wheat bread, fresh fruit, yogurt, carrot/celery sticks, dry cereal or crackers, chocolate milk.

I think the United States can take some lessons from Japan for school lunches, but the exact system described wouldn't work here. For one, the idea of no food from home aspect would have parents up in arms because their kid requires a special diet, has an allergy, is a vegetarian/vegan, etc. And that's before you throw in the many different cultures that make up the US, especially in more diverse areas of the nation.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

well.. brazilians school lunch are so health like this... sure that we eat something more italian.. but its all fresh, free and by season... different us ^^

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I wrote a blog post a while ago about some of the good aspects of kyushoku ( but I think the Wash Post article really glosses over the not-so-good aspects. For example, it says that fried food is rarely served, whereas in my prefecture I would say eight out of ten proteins come fried. While it is true that plenty of vegetables are served, because of fears about food poisoning everything has to be heated to a minimum temperature before serving, so the vegetables are never raw. They usually come boiled in soup or pickled. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does mean that heat-vulnerable and water soluble vitamins don't really make it through. Kyushoku kitchens are also notoriously bad at giving adequate information for kids with allergies. I've seen a lactose intolerant kid forced to eat a cream stew (because it wasn't "milk") and also a teacher literally smack the spoon out of a kids mouth after spotting a shrimp in a soup that the boy with a very serious allergy had been told was supposedly "safe" for him to eat.
The last thing is that although the article implies that kyushoku plays a star role in Japan's low childhood obesity rates because it isn't as "unhealthy" as American lunches, the fact is that kyushoku is specifically designed to be high calorie because the kids need the energy for their high level of physical activity. The emphasis is very much on exercise rather than restricting diet in Japanese elementary schools. Exercise has so many health benefits beyond just controlling weight, but it never seems to get discussed much in the American context.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I agree with your comment, here. I live in Japan, too. I work at two high schools and have on occasion eaten lunch in the cafeteria. Perhaps, it due to my upbringing or allergies to dairy and MSG but I do not find the food served in high school to be all that healthy. I think the general differences I noticed have been the lack of western cuisines like spagetti and pizza, fresh vegetables, and compared to my public high school in the States, lack in food served with mounds of cheese.

That being said, what can be seen as healthy are the smaller portions, limited access to sugary juices and sports drinks and as you mentioned, the amount of physical activity done everyday. Students at both schools have been preparing to run a 6k and 10k since October. We shall see how fast they are this Friday.

I do feel that school lunches in Japan attempt to be healthier than the ones served to me at high school in the States, however, image and reality are much different.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

The school lunches at my school were terrible. I have been in the cafeteria kitchen, and I know most of the food was frozen or canned. The only thing they did right was anything potato related. They used to have good stuff, like a salad bar, and chicken strips. But then I guess our budget got cut back, and so they took all that away. I remember things like burritos that were impossible to bite through on the ends, and lots of stuff with fake cheese. One thing, chicken pesole, tasted great but made me horribly sick to the point where I had a stomach ache that caused the worst pain I have felt to date. It usually consists of a protein, a carb (like potatoes or chips), and a veggie side. You got a carton of 1 percent or 2 percent milk. Rarely any dessert.

Most kids opted out, and either brought lunches from home or went to the "a la carte" line, which meant Cheetos, fruit by the foot, cup of noodles, nachos and cheese, that sort of thing. My mom didn't buy lunch stuff to make at home, so I either suffered through a cup of noodles if I had the money, or begged food off of my friends.

It really is because of the budget cuts. The US prioritizes cutting taxes, which means reducing budgets for anything worth while.

I know Its not to topic but help!

I know this is not on the subect but the areas In which I need help relate to posts from years ago! So I hope this is alright.
1. I need to make simple fast and filling bentos everyday for school but rice takes ages to cook and very night I have planned activities- what should I do?
2. My mum doesnt seem convinced that my bento is enough and tells me to eat it for break and buy lunch!
3. Even after reading the articles, I still cant figure out how to fill my box numerous times I have just put in some sushi maki and some carrots! I just cant seem to get a knack!

Thank you in advance!
Marzi x

Re: I know Its not to topic but help!

It sounds like the Bento101 course that we are starting next week may be ideal for you to get started with bentos. Take a look at the two posts before this one: here and here.

Re: I know Its not to topic but help!

Thanks Maki! I would love to try it! I wont be able to upload my work however due to not having a blog or social media outlet- would that be ok?


Re: I know Its not to topic but help!

Sure! Just following along with the assignments, or even just reading through them, should answer a lot of questions (hopefully).

Re: I know Its not to topic but help!

Rice cookers are great. I make brown rice, and I let the rice soak overnight. First thing when I get up I turn on the rice cooker, and by the time I am done getting dressed and a short dog walk, even brown rice is done.

I take both breakfast and lunch with me to work, so I freeze extra in two portion size and heat that up for a minute or so in the microwave if I have some in the freezer.

A lot of things can take precious time in the morning, but rice doesn't have to.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I've recently been reading the Never Seconds Blog (on Blogger/blogspot). The owner(a school aged child) gets entries from other school aged children about their lunches. Japan has entries on there, and a semi-recent entry has information about a school lunch competion in Japan. I'm not quite sure of all the details, but all the info is on there.Pictures are included.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Um, yeah. The article isn't really exaggerating. It really is "that bad." When I was a kid out in rural California, USA in the 80's we had kitchen duty where we helped out with dish washing or helped serve meals. We ate home-cooked meals for lunches-- from-scratch. We had a kitchen helper who patrolled the room helping open milk cartons and encouraging us to eat our vegetables.

My kids' school lunches are considered "homemade" yet each ingredient comes from a can or the freezer. There are healthier choices a la carte, like fresh fruit and salads, but those are just for the teachers. Chocolate and Strawberry milk are the order of the day, loaded with sugar and still considered necessary. I have a child with soy allergies and there is no way he could ever eat a school lunch because everything is either a bread of some type, or frozen foods coated in soybean oil, or both (or the aforementioned "mystery meat" comprised mostly of TVP). If you've ever watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution you can see first hand how bad it is, and how the USDA subsidized food (to make school lunches more affordable) is the frozen-prepackaged-high-in-fat-and-carbs-and-sugar variety. He tried desperately to make a change, and couldn't.

Which is one of the many reasons why we Bento. :)

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Until I was in high school, school lunch was not an option. Milk and ice cream were available, but lunch had to be brought from home. I went to a small parochial school so we did not have the government lunch program at that time. My child is not yet school age, but I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the things I'm hearing and reading about school lunches in the US. I saw a lot of questionable stuff when I was a substitute teacher, too. Our government is increasingly claiming to know better than parents how to raise a child, and I am now seeing, in our area, fliers that encourage parents to have their child eat both breakfast and lunch at school because they will get better nutrition. There has been some talk of making this mandatory. Parents like me who serve fresh, organic, non-GMO vegetables, wild or grass-fed meats, and home-baked goods are supposed to be convinced that processed chicken nuggets and canned corn are better than anything we could provide. I do understand that the school lunch program is important in providing meals for children whose families cannot afford much food, but I would rather see the option to bring lunch from home stay available. I would rather pack a nutritious lunch for my child and have my tax dollars go to providing better quality for children in need rather than massive quantity of questionable food forced on all of the children.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

In Australia we don't have the school lunch provided by the school but we have canteens where you can buy lunch. We always brought lunch from home which my mum made, sandwiches and fruit and biscuits for a snack. There have been issues about the quality of what is provided in these canteens, with many now not selling sodas, fried chips or anything unhealthy.

One of the major issues many kids faced when I was at school in the 70's and 80's was the cultural differences in lunches which set kids apart from the others. I'm sure there is still this issue now. Turning up to school with 'smelly' salami, or rice and vegetables or a pork bun, was really a reason to get a kid teased by his classmates. Lots of kids threw the lunch away rather than be different, so very sad. There's also many problems with some kids not having any lunch, or even breakfast before school, and there are programs to give these kids something to eat so they perform better in school which are working. There's even a university providing a free breakfast to students for the same reason.

A school provided lunch at least brings equality - no matter the quality. I'd love to see them here.


Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

My children have been talking lunch to school for years and within the past 3 years we have worked on bento lunch. Their health has improved and we do not get all the stomach trouble complaints from the school nurse after lunch. When I worked for the local school district, I was shocked to see the students eating nachos andbuffalo wings for lunch. Those are snacks for ballparks and movies. Many of the kids did not have a fruit/vegetable on their plate. I found it sad but none of the parents complained. The school lunches are unhealthy and we as parents need to lead the way in making a change.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

My school had no lunch. It was over at 13pm, so I went home for lunch. But I worked in a school with lunch for half a year. I had the task of food duty for some students (last class of primary school, Age 9-10). as I remember the food was cooked in the school. There were 2 meals each day. One with meat and one vegetarian. Sometimes I ate it. It was good. You must still consider the fact of canteen kitchen, it will never taste like home cooked. But despise to japan school lunch there was no soup and always a dessert.

In the last kindergarten I worked we hat lunch delivered by a food delivery service. That was really disgusting. My job was to make the menu for every month out of the offer from the deliverer. I tried my best to orient me at nutritional facts AND the likes of children. But the food was always overcooked, the vegetables a real mass, like a stomp and its taste... don't talk about it.

In Germany the meals in school or kindergarten differ a lot. The ones with own chef are lucky. Like I am now in my current kindergarten. But that is not the standard.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

At my school we never got ANY of the stuff on the American half of that chart. It was red baron french bread pizzas, microwaved in the bag, soggy with condensation after being under a heat lamp for the entire period before lunch. Or microwaved miniburgers completely covered by and stuck to their packaging with melted cheese. The safest thing to eat was invariably a chicken sandwich, basically an oversized chicken nugget between 2 pieces of wonderbread, also microwaved. In fact the cafeteria staff didn't even "cook", the only utensils in the kitchen were a box cutter and a microwave.. The only vegetable consistently available was baby carrots. There was no whole grain anything on the menu. And they had the audacity to charge us 4.50 for lunch. The McDonald's across the street sold us bigger portions of food for less than that and they at least had the decency to cook it to order. I'd like to meet the man who actually got "oven baked fish nuggets" at lunch in school.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I reside in a town with high taxes, lots of school funding, and above the average salaries.
I saw different menus for an elementary school and a private preschool.
The food is pretty much junk. Every day.
The items on the menu, the combination of items, and the way they are prepared= all junk.
Bread sticks with sauce, French toast with syrup and sausage, Fried chicken and a bag of chips, ...At this point, does it really matter if the french toast is made with whole grain?
Almost never fresh fruit and vegetables, too much frying and cheese.
They keep talking about teaching kids about nutrition and how the school lunches are supposed to help kids that don't have a hot meal at home (or something like that), yet they serve such menus.
I didn't see even once just plain rice or simple pasta/bread.
I'm telling you- if not for seeing it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed how bad the situation is.

I really don't think the horrible menus are related to classes and such. There's money here. I even saw some similar lunches given to preschool kids, by their parents. I also noticed bento meals online that consist of crackers, cheese, sausage, baby carrots, salad dressing, and some cookies or candy.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I'm only speaking from my own experience here (in a Canadian school), but the food that was served in my high school cafeteria was pretty much pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, and maybe a couple of different kinds of salad. Which kids never chose to eat when they could get a slice of pizza for the same price. The comparison menu that you linked to certainly does seem healthy, but the problem is that the vast majority of schools don't have that kind of lunch plan. They serve up reheated frozen and deep fried stuff, along with chocolate, chips, and sodas. It was far easier for parents to hand their kids a $5 bill and let them get what they wanted for lunch than it was to make and pack something healthier for them, too. And if they didn't want to eat what was given at school, they'd just take a 5 minute walk to one of the half dozen fast food places nearby and eat something there.

I think the biggest problem is that here, schools pander more to what kids want than what they need. Kids like to eat pizza and fries, so let's give it to them. But we're paying the price of that now. How many times do I see arguments against healthier lunches that consist of, "But kids don't want to eat healthy stuff, so they won't, so let's not even bother."

I think the biggest difference lies in the culture rather than the food that's served. Sadly. Because a menu is far easier to adjust than social norms are.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I also went to a small town Canadian school, and there were no school lunches in the elementary schools, other than the opion to buy pizza or hotdogs on Fridays, and milk or juice every day. My mom didn't buy junk food, so we had all homemade lunches, but most kids in my class had chips, "fruit snacks" and maybe a sandwich or apple.

In high school, there was a cafeteria where you could buy lunches, but the only fresh food available was apples and oranges. Most food was deep fried, or pizza and meat subs. There were also vending machines for pop, chips, chocolate bars and popcorn. As a vegetarian with very little money, I could buy either fries or an apple, but not both. I usually either brought a lunch and added fries or popcorn, or skipped lunch altogether to go downtown or to the library.

Here, it is up to the parents to make sure their kids have a healthy lunch. Some parents are good at this, but most take the easy way out, buying unhealthy, prepackaged food for their children's lunches. Also being an environmentalist, the amount of garbage I saw daily from prepackaged food made me sad.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I find this article very interesting, however seeing what children eat in Japan shows there is a huge difference in what American children eat vs. Japanese children. I do not see any sugar ladden snacks on the trays for the students in Japan, which is common and expected in the U.S. Many public schools serve ice cream, high sugar drinks, and other snacks. Unless, this article is not show casing those foods, it seems like Japanese children eat items that fullfill their daily nutritional needs, without unnecessary calories.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I volunteered in a low income preschool sponsored by the government for a few months in the US. The kids had a "cook" who pretty much served them nothing but microwaved frozen food of hamburgers, nasty old veggies, and shriveled carrots. The kids usually ate the meat/carbs but not the veggies. They loved the fruit but often there wasn't enough. What broke my heart was that many of the kids were still hungry after finishing their allotted portions and we'd have leftovers, but we weren't allowed to give it to them because federal rules didn't allow us to give seconds unless we had enough left for each child, even if the rest of the kids didn't want seconds. Sometimes we didn't even have enough food for the entire class and some kids would have hamburgers without buns. But they always did have a pint of milk.

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Re: Is this site safe?

Hi Lila, we were affected yesterday along with thousands of other sites around the internet due to a problem with an ad server. The problem is detailed here: and on many other sites.

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Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Whoa, where in America do schools serve lunches like the ones listed on that comparison chart? Because from my experiences, the public schools in my county had terrible lunches. Soggy, greasy pizza slices, stale potato wedges, sugary teriyaki/orange chicken over white rice, chicken sandwiches made with a piece of fried chicken, white bread, flavorless bean burritos (I ate one once and it gave me a stomachache..) and no vegetables... And all of it was prefrozen (I had friends who worked in the cafeteria tell me this haha.) And for the kids who didn't buy lunch, the student store sold a huge variety of sweets, chips, etc... This is what I observed my friends eating since I almost never bought school lunch, but it never really looked appetizing. Occasionally there were chicken or taco salads which didn't seem too bad, but those were still drowned in either rich dressing or mounds of cheese... The cooked vegetables (soggy green beans and carrot chunks, yum) were always found in the garbage, and on the rare occasions when a whole apple was given, I'd see kids aiming them at trashcans, as if they were basketballs.. -___- It's pretty sad, but I know the county I was living in is one of the worst (academically and economically) in the country, so I guess it makes sense. But it's still disappointing. I wish the "typical U.S. school lunch menus" were a reality, because the foods listed on it seemed decently healthy and much more balanced than the junk our schools provided. Not that the Japanese menus are super healthy or anything, but at least they're made on site and a lot of time and planning is put into creating balanced meals...

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I was kind of wondering about that chart, since just about everyone says that most school lunch menus in the U.S. are not that healthy. I did go to school in the US for a few years, but 1. that was a long time ago and 2. the only thing I remember eating was the spaghetti and meat sauce, mainly because the spaghetti was chopped up and I thought that was very weird ^_^;

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

At my elementary, middle, and high schools (all public) in Hawaii, I ate school lunch every day, exclusively. We were not allowed to go off-campus to purchase lunch. Lunch was very cheap ($1 to $2.50), and very good, so we never made packed lunch, ever. Maybe things are different now, but we always had (fresh) fruits, vegetables, and things like whole wheat rolls, steamed rice, etc. In middle and high school we had a full salad bar as an alternate lunch, with things like tofu, tuna, etc available as the protein. Entree was usually things like baked chicken or fish patties, sometimes we had local type lunches like kalua pig and cabbage with steamed rice, or somen salad. Sure we had things like tater tots, etc but it was never like some of the atrocious lunches I hear about in other parts of the US.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Im not going to go into to much detail about english food but... Me and my friend India are LITERALLY the only people that eat the fresh fruit here. Im not even joking- I asked one member of catering staff for an apple and she said- "we have apples?"
Standards these days .___.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Hi, just wanted to pipe in and say that my elementary school's lunches were freshly prepared every day, although they may have used some canned products, it is in Alaska off the road system and local produce doesn't exist during the winter, or summer so it is shipped in from afar and pricy to say the least. It otherwise was quite healthy and tasty and had a diverse menu from adobo to homemade pizza (favorites). I believe that this continues to this day. I was disappointed in the school lunches in schools I attended or worked at elsewhere in the state, so this school district was definitely an exception. I think that this was a small school district in a small, tight knit community really made it possible for the lunches to be healthy and delicious.

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

I had the experience of attending a public school and a religiously owned private school in the USA. I will say the quality of food differed greatly. Sure the private school used many of the same food services as the public, but they were better at ordering quality items and didn't rely on federal/state guidelines as to what counted as healthy. A french fry is not a vegetable.

As for the public schools, food quality was well below today's McDonald's standards. Corn filler in half of the meats. I don't even know if the chemical composition of the pizza was even food. Under-cooked chicken quite often enough and half rotted and/or soggy vegetables. My mother always pushed me as a younger child to no brown-bag it. I was mostly forced to eat meals (they wonder why children have such aversion to vegetables in school...).

Unfortunately with budget cuts, school levies not getting passed and so much more, many students will never get the chance for a decent meal at lunch (some students it's their only meal of the day!).

Re: School lunch in Japan: is it so different?

Extra note to the Japanese and American menu side by side:
That isn't the average school lunch in America. A private school, more likely. An area with a richer population, yes. But that is no representative of school lunches in inner cities or rural areas. If I can find exactly which school district the Washington Post is using, I will tell you now it's a better funded district than over half of America.

It looks more like paste when on a plate than "kiwi slices". "Whole wheat pizza" might as well just be saying "we added a touch of wheat, that counts as whole wheat right?". And by "packed in juice" should be read as "packed in corn syrup". Apple sauce as well sweetened with corn syrup.

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