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Exploring School Food Around the Globe: How Does the U.S. Measure Up

Updated: Apr 2

Has one ever received school lunch and pondered why it appears in such a manner? The

reasons behind the aesthetics of these meals are multifaceted, rooted in the cost of food and its financial origins. Recently, when presented with this topic, our protagonist embarked on an exploration of school lunches in various nations, discovering that France, for instance, offers steak to its students. Envious of this fare, research ensued to understand why American school lunches often lack the natural appeal found elsewhere.

The origins of funding for school lunches differ from country to country, with resources typically sourced from either families or governmental bodies. In the United States, the federal government has allocated a substantial $28.7 billion for student lunches.

“The national school lunch program costs the United States federal government around 28.7 billion U.S. dollars.” -- Statista Research Department

This provision affords nearly free school lunches to students. Karen Lebillon wrote an article about the lunches kids have in France, this article tells us about the food kids eat in France and their health benefits compared to here. She expresses that in countries such as France, families, and local municipalities bear a larger share of the financial burden, as the government does not fully subsidize school lunches.

However, financial considerations only scratch the surface of the issue. Governmental regulations play a pivotal role in shaping the nutritional content of school meals.

“The reimbursable meal requirements emphasize whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, with limits on sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories.” -- Project Bread

Despite these guidelines, some American schools still serve meals that do not meet nutritional standards. This disparity becomes evident when comparing American school lunches to those in other nations, as highlighted by AMI Education Solutions' examination of global school lunch programs.

“tight budgets and unhealthy school vendors have meant that lunches served in some US schools (but not all) are highly processed and lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables” -- AMI Education Solutions
Kids Going Through a Lunch Line

This grim reality underscores the urgent need for reform in the school lunch system. The solution to this challenge remains elusive.

France emerges as an exemplar in this narrative, boasting one of the world's lowest obesity rates. Their success can be attributed to a holistic approach that emphasizes the importance of healthy eating habits from an early age.

“The French approach demonstrates what can be done by communities when food–and teaching children to love eating healthy food–is a priority” -- Karren Lebillon

Learning from such models, we can strive to make school lunches healthier for students, with lasting impacts on their adult lives.

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