World Cup Fever: Viva Espana!

Welcome to the final installment in the very occasional World Cup Fever series, in which I look at how and what kids eat for school lunch in various soccer nations.

As the world now knows, Spain meets the Netherlands in the final on Sunday, so I figured I’d wrap this up with a bit of tapas.

Spaniards take their food and their bullfighting seriously—though not usually at the same time. (Photo by Ben Saul)

Only about 20% of Spanish kids eat school lunch provided at school. The rest either go home to eat or bring a packed meal (some are quite elaborate three-course meals, like gazpacho soup, green beans and a Spanish tortilla—a delicious potato omelette— followed by fruit, according to this blogger).

School meals in Spain tend to be catered by outside companies rather than made in-house.

Many schools send home lunch menus each week detailing the nutrients, vitamins and fat content in the lunches that will be served. Some schools even make suggestions to families about what they should serve for the evening meal to insure kids are getting all the nutrients they need!

Last winter, spurred by rising rates of childhood obesity, the Spanish government introduced legislation banning high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods in schools. But the proposal didn’t stop there. According to Time Magazine:

“In addition to limiting the hours during which junk food can be advertised on TV, the bill would prohibit celebrities from appearing in any ads for foods aimed at children. And, in a move that may mean the death of the Happy Meal, it would ban companies from including toys or prizes in foods targeted to children.”

It’s a gutsy move but part of what is shaping up to be an international trend.

In fact, just last month, the awesome Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) gave notice of its intent  to sue McDonald’s if it didn’t stop using toys to market Happy Meals. And Santa Clara County in California recently banned fast food toys in its restaurants. Here in Canada, the province of Quebec has  a long-standing ban against junk-food ads aimed at children.

And just this morning, I read on CNN’s Eatocracy that the Interagency Working Group in the US (representing various federal agencies, including the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission) has come up with new standards limiting the kinds of foods that can be marketed to children. A report is scheduled to be tabled in Congress by the middle of this month. Hopefully, it will put an end once and for all to dubious claims like Kellog’s Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.” Nice try. (The FTC already cracked down on that one.)


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