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Why Lunchtime in Japanese Schools Is a Big Deal

The Land of the Rising Sun takes its food and health seriously, making school mealtime a source of national pride. While various countries struggle to create healthy, tasty, and affordable school meals, Japan has done it, using what officials call common sense.

There’s a law called shokuiku stating food and nutrition education is considered an important part of the Japanese child’s early education. School lunches are actually part of the curriculum.

Japanese school meal.

Starting in elementary school, kids are taught the significance of healthy eating, that what you put in your body greatly matters.

Educational institutions ensure kids have balanced and hearty meals, similar to what they’d get at home. The food are made from scratch, and are a complete meal of rice and vegetables, fish, and soup.

Lunchtime is a communal duty in both elementary and middle schools. Students wear sanitary caps and coats to serve their fellow classmates. They eat identical meals together in classrooms, and can’t really leave their food untouched as there are no vending machines on school grounds. They are also restricted from bringing food to school, until they reach high school.

The youth learn to eat what are served to them. Majority of schools employ nutritionists to work on kids who are picky or unhealthy eaters. These nutritionists draw up the recipes of the menu served.

Funding for lunches is handled locally. Municipalities pay for labor costs, but parents, who are billed monthly, pay for the ingredients, about $3 per meal, with reduced and free options for poorer families.

This may seem strict, but the payoff is definitely worth it as children are relatively healthy. According to government data, the child obesity rate in Japan is constantly decreasing and is always among the world’s lowest, having expanded the dietary education program. As per World Health Organization, Japanese kids live on average to 83, longer than those in other countries.

Banner photo and video courtesy of Atsuko Satake Quirk.

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