Lunch in Japan's schools - The best in the world?

In most public elementary schools in Japan, there is a lunch service Monday through Friday called Kyûshoku (給食)

Today I want to show you how lunches are in Japanese public elementary schools. The children not only eat rice but also bread, as you can see in the pictures.

The children in each class take turns handing out the food with an apron and hat that they take home on weekends to wash and bring home clean on Monday, and hand it to the next group that will hand out the food that week.

One of the things I find interesting, is the invitation to parents to eat lunch with children called Kyûshoku shishokukai shishokukai (給食試食会). I find it interesting and a good habit because parents can eat with their children and see what they eat and what they don't eat, talk to them and also see how a healthy and balanced lunch is.

School lunch in Japan, common costumes

And as I always say, I don't know every public elementary school in my country, so I can't say that every school in Japan invites parents to lunch with their children. What I tell are the customs of the schools in my Tokyo neighborhood and what my friends told me.

I don't know if your countries have this system of Kyûshoku and the invitation to parents. In Argentina it didn't exist, well ... in my time, now I don't know.

I will continue to write from time to time about education in Japan, about questions I was asked by some readers of the blog to find out if it is true or not and about customs of Japanese families, because some foreign friends married to Japanese and living in Japan asked me to explain what I know.

Every prefecture has its rules, every school has its customs and every Japanese family is a different world. The fact that one school does or says this or that does not mean that all of Japan does the same thing.

Very healthy meals

School lunch in Japan is synonymous with healthy, balanced food made from fresh, locally grown produce. They rarely use frozen products, and will always use the best meat (instead of the mysterious sausages we in the West are so accustomed to).

Children value the food they are offered at school, and ask their parents to recreate it at home. They call the schools asking for recipes. That's how things work in Japanese school canteens.

Good nutrition is a source of good health, and this is practiced in Japan, where school lunches are healthy and balanced, making the nation proud (how many more countries can say that?).

Most countries rely on sub-contractors to make menus whose main objective is to obtain economic benefits to the detriment of the quality of the service they provide. Their school menus are prepared in large central kitchens, frozen and distributed to schools to be reheated and served.

This process obviously affects the organoleptic characteristics of the product, which will have very little to do with the nutritional value of a fresh meal.

In contrast, Japanese schools offer the same type of food that they eat at home, always made from scratch in the same schools. Plenty of rice, fish, vegetables and soups are served in these balanced and nutritious menus.

This system makes society spend less on health, since everyone has a stronger and more nourished organism. In addition, thanks to this policy, Japan has one of the lowest rates of childhood obesity in the world.

Japanese Food and Education

Children are taught food culture, and each school has nutritionists who work to educate them on that path (and even the most picky children understand).
In this way, schools educate in values, deliver health and encourage self-sufficiency through lunch.

That education is delivered in practice also by entrusting the students themselves with the service of food to their classmates. Wearing white jackets, hats and masks, the children assume the role of dining room assistants. Everyone is served the same portion and, if they don't like it, there is no choice of candy vending machine, so they end up eating it anyway.

The children eat in their corresponding classroom, and at the end of lunch they leave everything tidy and clean, since in Japan it is understood that snacking is also part of education and is integrated into the formative program as well as mathematics, English and art.
This philosophy makes Japan one of the world leaders when it comes to school lunches: lunchtime teaches them about nutrition and food, teamwork, community service and the importance of autonomy. Without a doubt, an example to follow.

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