What school lunches look like around the world
When it comes to school lunches, options differ drastically by each country, from four-course meals consisting of roast beef, tabbouleh and apple tart in France to spaghetti with seafood sauce and fish fillet au gratin in Italy, each country offers its own unique meal choices for school pupils.
Children across the globe are offered a variety of foods to tuck into at lunchtime, and we’re looking at what school lunches around the world look like and how these differ in terms of nutrition and variety.
Starting with the home country of AMI’s headquarters, UK’s school canteens have seen drastic changes to the food provided over the years, with a dramatic shift toward more nutritional food in recent years, thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign in the noughties. Oliver’s campaign increased the standards of school meals and reduced saturated fat, sugar and salt present in the food served to children.
Today, lunch options in the UK are far more varied, with an increased number of options for different dietary preferences, and Research by the Children’s Food Trust shows that school meals in the UK are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, providing children with a better foundation for good health.
Typical hot school lunches include vegetarian lasagne, pasta bake, fresh salads, jam roly-poly and more; fresh, healthy options with some old classics added in.
Known for its culinary delights, France offers its pupils slightly more decadent options, including brie, steak, and apple tart to name a few, whilst adhering to strict nutritional regulations concerning portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods.
For example, starters containing more than 15% fat can be served no more than 4 out of 20 days, which means that salads, grilled chicken with grains and even roast guinea fowl make regular appearances on French school menus.
As a nation with a healthier, and perhaps more inclusive attitude toward food, it is no surprise that Italians focus on setting up children for healthy eating habits in adult life, and school lunches are the perfect way to promote healthy eating practices. Guidelines state that Italian school lunches must include a starchy dish such as rice or pasta, a main course such as meat, fish, cheese, two or more vegetable side dishes, and plenty of fruit.
Besides, Italian law is much stricter regarding unhealthy food on school menus and forbids cafeterias from serving deep-fried food such as chips and fried chicken. Therefore, popular lunch items include minestrone, mushroom risotto, and the occasional scoop of gelato.
Unlike the other countries in this list, lunch is considered the main meal of the day in Greece, which means pupils often eat lunch at home or bring a packed lunch into school and therefore, many schools don’t offer subsidized school lunches. However, schools that do serve lunch offer options such as baked chicken with orzo, cucumber and tomato salad, stuffed vine leaves and yoghurt with fruit for dessert.
Research shows that receiving free or reduced-price school lunches reduce food insecurity, obesity rates, and poor health, and what sets Sweden apart from the other countries is the fact that since 1997, all children in the country have access to a free hot school lunch, which consists of a hot meal, salad buffet, bread and a drink, with vegetarians options available to all.
Desserts and soft drinks, however, are not served, and options such as pizza and deep-fried food have been removed in recent years, with a focus on healthy and sustainable meal options such as meat or vegetable stew with potatoes, pasta with sauce, and knäckebröd, Sweden’s famous crispy bread.
(The Japan Guy)
In Japan, school lunches are offered to nursery and middle school children and are served in the classroom, with an emphasis on nutrition education and teaching pupils how to cook healthy food from scratch and making students aware of the nutritional components of the food they’re eating.
Unsurprisingly, Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world, which is likely a result of offering pupils food such as miso soup with pork, rice with grilled fish, milk, and dried fruit for dessert.
South Korea is another country known for its healthy school lunch offerings and emphasis on health education. Since pupils are encouraged to partake in various extracurricular activities after school, pupils need to be served healthy lunch options that will sustain them into the evening. Popular dishes include fried rice with tofu, kimchi, fish soup and mixed green vegetables.
Last but certainly not least, America is a country famous for its plethora of junk food offerings and fast food outlets on every corner. In US schools, the National School Lunch Programme provides low-cost or free school lunches to 31 million students at more than 100,000 schools per day, and meals must meet the nutritional standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
However, tight budgets and unhealthy school vendors have meant that lunches served in some US schools (but not all) are highly processed and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. These lunches often look like popcorn chicken with French fries, mashed potatoes, and for dessert, fruit cups and chocolate chip cookies.
Resources for schools:
During the Coronavirus pandemic, innovative technology such as pre-order apps and cashless catering products have come into a league of their own. From improving the flow of traffic within the school dining hall to helping schools to maintain social distancing guidelines by enabling students to use their mobile devices to select their food options anytime, anywhere, pre-order apps such as ami Education’s Infinity+ Order have really proved their worth in the past year.
However, with so many more untold benefits, it’s clear to say that the peak of school meal pre-ordering is far from over.
Why do we need pre-ordering after lockdown?
Outside of the context of COVID-19, pre-ordering technology still holds value. According to a recent Footprint Intelligence Report, 41% of foodservice professionals said that pre-ordering systems have reduced food wastage and increased lunchtime efficiencies in schools where they are implemented.
Maintaining a streamlined lunchtime service is also vital for reducing the stress of school caterers who have worked tirelessly to provide students with meals during the pandemic, and when students select their meals ahead of time, it enables catering teams to produce the exact amount of food required. This eradicates the need for over-catering and cuts down on food wastage, which is better for school budgets, catering staff, and the planet.
Cutting down on food wastage isn’t the only way pre-ordering is helping schools to reach their sustainability targets. The Infinity+ Order app provides full records of past orders, and the online payment integration means that receipts no longer need to be printed out at POS, saving paper and needless spending on printing.
Moreover, the powerful reporting suite helps predict trends that can help with accurate stock control to save schools money and food from ending up in the cafeteria bin.
It’s not just the environmental factors attracting schools towards the pre-ordering revolution. Cashless catering apps such as Infinity+ Order are widely accessible on mainstream download platforms such as the App Store or Google Play, meaning that any student with a smartphone can gain access to the ease of pre-ordering in just a few clicks.
This ability to order snacks and meals from a personal device also gives students claiming free school meals added anonymity throughout the ordering and collection process, ensuring that FSM students are comfortable in the dining hall.
As schools adapt to the new normal, their primary goal will be to help students who may have fallen behind catch up to where they need to be. Pre-order apps can help with this task by reducing the amount of time spent queuing, meaning that pupils can get back to lunchtime catchup clubs as soon as possible.
Ordering meals in advance also removes hunger-based decisions, which often consist of unhealthy snacks and drinks - encouraging pupils to pick a fully nutritious meal that can power them through the day and improve their concentration in class.
What’s not to love? Find out more about implementing pre-ordering into your education environment here to access a world of benefits: https://www.amieducation.com/pre-order-app
Today, it’s the return of International School Meals Day for its ninth year running. The awareness day aims to highlight the options for affordable and nutritious meals for schools, whilst exploring the links between good food and the mental and physical health of children.
The theme for 2021 is ‘Eat for the Health of it,’ which gives children, businesses, and communities the opportunity to come together and share their thoughts, knowledge, and opinions regarding school meals. We’re looking at the importance of nutritious school meals and the effects on a pupil’s ability to learn.
Why are healthy school meals so important?
Not only are schools required by law to serve nutritious school lunches containing high-quality meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and bread, but they also provide the fuel for a more productive day of learning for students.
Eating a nutritious plate of food at lunchtime is proven to boost the attention span and alertness of pupils in the classroom in comparison to those who consume poor meals in the canteen. According to a study published by The Atlantic in 2018, it was discovered that schools that held a contract with healthier school catering services also performed better in state examinations, further boosting the reasoning for school meals to be at the forefront of industry conversation.
But school meals are not only important for boosting concentration. They are also the main source of nutrition for students during a key period of their development, providing the vital calories they need to maintain their physical wellbeing. Recent conversations - particularly those around food insecurity which is on the rise and had been experienced by 2.3million children between March and August in 2020 alone (End Child Food Poverty) are now more noteworthy than ever and have further elevated the importance of getting a nutritious, hot school meal out to children who otherwise may not receive the food that they need.
Students claiming free school meals are especially vulnerable in this area, so assuring they have access to at least one good meal at school is pivotal to not only their health but to the quality of their education as well.
How can I get involved in International School Meals Day 2021?
There are many ways to get involved in the event, but there is also the freedom to take part in any way that best suits you, your organisation or classroom! Here are some suggestions:
- Have an International Menu Day, featuring food from around the world
- Run food tasting sessions or hold other fun food-related activities
- Host cooking activities with an international theme
- Hold fundraising activities for charities to support school feeding programmes in developing countries
- Incorporate global citizenship, food culture and healthy eating into classroom learning
- Run seminars, workshops or events related to food traditions, ceremonies, or celebrations
- Research and publish information relating to school foods and the benefits of healthy eating
The most important thing, however, is not to just take a single day to promote the importance of school meals but to continually highlight the impact they have on the lives of young people all year round and implement changes to ensure they continue to make healthy food choices at mealtimes. Pre-ordering software such as AMI’s Infinity+ Order App are leading the way in encouraging children to eat healthily by removing hunger-based, spontaneous selections in the lunch queue, among other benefits which you can read about in our blog.
Whichever way you decide to celebrate #InternationalSchoolMealsDay, we hope you have a great time! For more information, please visit the official ISMD website: http://internationalschoolmealsday.com/.