The health content of lunches served in American schools has been in question for some time now. You may recall Jamie Oliver’s presentation, Teach Every Child About Food, where he focused on what students are actually eating in schools, and it wasn’t good.
There is one place in the world where healthy eating in schools is the norm. In Japan, the students are not only aware of what constitutes a fuel packed lunch, but they even make it themselves.
“Everything is cooked on site,” said Kimii Fujii a school nutritionist at Umejima Elementary in Tokyo. “We even make our own broth.” Fujii is a full time teacher and also acts as head chef at lunchtime. She helps the students prepare lunch and is also responsible for educating the parents on the process.
There is a cost involved, but it is considered reasonable. Parents are expected to pay a small price of $3 per meal and it is provided for free for lower income families.
Parents are highly involved in this process. Sometimes to create familiarity, parents will call the school to get the recipes so they can cook the same meals at home. It helps the kids to know that the food they eat at school is important for their parents too. Ingredients for all lunches are also posted to the school web site for everyone to see. Fujii includes other information like where the food comes from in her full recipes.
“According to government data, Japan’s child obesity rate, is always among the world’s lowest,” A recent Washington Post report found, “It has declined for each of the past six years, a period during which the country has expanded its dietary education program.”
Knowing what is good for you and then taking the time to cook it has positive advantages for the children. “Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education,” Masahiro Oji, a government director of school health education stated, “not a break from it.”