School lunch in Japan

One of the countries in my upcoming book, What’s for Lunch? whose midday offering provides some of the greatest contrast to North America is Japan. There, school lunch is known as kyushoku, and it’s as much a part of the curriculum as science or math. Not only do children serve the food, teachers and administrators sit down with the kids to eat it. They practise respect, cleanliness (everyone joins in to clean up afterward) and proper eating habits.

What a difference from my own kids’ school where one of the lunchroom supervisors screams at the children if they leave their seat and they are barely allowed to speak during the meal. I often find the packed lunch uneaten and my older son says he just didn’t have enough time. This weekend, I overheard him advising his little brother (who will join him in the lunchroom next year) that he would be advised to keep his head down and not say a word if he doesn’t want to get in trouble. The little one looked terrified.

Daniel Ferguson, a roving kindergarten teacher currently in Fukuyama and Okayama Japan, also noticed the contrast from his last posting in the Southern US and has created a blog chronicling his lunch adventures—including (reluctantly) eating little fish whose bellies are filled with eggs. He was inspired by Mrs. Q, the amazing American teacher at Fed Up with School Lunch who’s been eating lunch at school every day this year in an effort to draw attention to the unhealthy and inadequate meals. She’s currently counting down the days until school gets out. I can’t wait to hear her end of year observations.

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