This week, I sat down with my editor and looked at the first page proofs of What’s for Lunch? (my book on how schoolchildren eat around the world coming out next year). It looks fabulous (I’ll give a sneak peek sometime soon), and among other things, I was reminded (happily) that many countries around the world treat lunch as an occasion to be enjoyed and savoured rather than simply an unpleasant diversion from playtime (scroll down for this week’s post on the latter).
I thought it would be worth looking at how things work in some other countries:
•In France, 45 minutes is devoted to the eating part of lunch—plus playtime afterward.
•In Russia, teachers walk around the cafeteria making sure children eat using proper table manners (something they are taught in school!).
•In China, teachers also walk around and encourage kids to chew their food carefully and not be too noisy.
• According to a national survey called the School Health Policies and Practices Study, American children have an average of 22.8 minutes after sitting down to eat their lunch at school (I’ve also heard 7 minutes as an average—it’s probably somewhere in between.)
•In England, the School Food Trust publishes case studies under the title “Meal Experience.” From introducing special “meal deals” to getting children to create place mats to brighten the space to posting menus and having tasting sessions, many schools are working at making school dinners a social experience as well as a healthy eating one.
• In Japan, students serve the food and the whole class waits to eat until everyone is seated and served. Teachers and admin people also sit down with the children. (For more on kyushoku, see my posts here and here.) Before they begin, they chant Itadakimasu all together (one of many translations is “let’s eat!”—but it’s also a thank you to those who provided the meal).