Japanese students walking in the school staircase.
Food - Drink
What Lunch Looks Like For Japanese Students
Around the globe, over 161 countries have national programs to subsidize school lunches, each serving up its own fare reflecting that particular nation’s culture, economy, and value system. Japan's school lunch program, kyūshoku, ensures that lunch is served in every public elementary and junior high school, but the program is about more than just food.
Japanese school meals are held to rigorous standards, not just in the quality of the ingredients, but also in the quality of nutrition and taste. Meals are often planned by a nutritionist and made fresh on the day of, incorporating seasonal veggies, soup, salad, rice, meat, and milk, which is then taste-tested before being delivered to schools just in time for lunch.
Japanese school lunches are government subsidized and cost about $2.50 per day, and most interestingly, the lunches are served by the students themselves. Students collect meals and serve them to their classmates, while other students are tasked with laying out placemats, and napkins and pushing desks together to create a communal eating experience.
With such balanced meals, it’s no surprise that Japanese child obesity rates are amongst the lowest in the world and have continued to go down as the program has expanded. The program not only feeds kids but emphasizes shokuiku, a philosophy that teaches kids to listen to their bodies, follow a varied diet of whole foods, and share meals with family and friends.