We may be used to seeing burgers and fries on school lunch trays in America, but elsewhere around the world, the mid-day meal looks a little different. From Asia to Europe, where the EU is funding a large-scale program to provide more nutritious meals, school lunches are as diverse as the cuisines of their nations and the students who eat them. Take, for example, Germany, where the average student might eat German staples like sausage, potato and some veggies, or Vietnam, where lunch consists of rice, leafy greens, and pork or even a noodle soup. Of course, there’s no one school lunch for each country—who remembers pizza day at school?—, but we’ve rounded up a few examples of what types of foods students across the world might eat on any given day.
A burger and tots. No surprises here.
While many schools in Germany finish classes before lunchtime, an average school lunch might consist of potato salad and some type of sausage, or wurst. Fresh fruit and vegetables are some healthy sides. Other options could consist of traditional main dishes like fried fish with potatoes, stuffed potato pockets or potato pancakes, or pasta.
In Argentina and other South American countries, school usually begins and ends before or after lunch. Many children eat at home, but for those who have school lunch, a European-influenced Latin arrangement of breaded meat (like Chicken Milanese) with starch and vegetables is typical for an average school lunch.
A spread of cucumber-tomato salad, veal marinated with mushrooms, broccoli, cheese, and an apple tart is definitely not what Americans are eating. It’s no surprise though, considering France’s respect for the long, leisurely lunch, that French children would learn from an early age.
The Finns take their health seriously, with vegetables covering half of the average school lunch plate. Fish or other meat share the other half of the plate with some grain, usually potatoes or pasta. Berries come last for a nutritious dessert.
In rural Vietnam, students often go home for lunch. At schools where there is an on-site kitchen, lunch can range from rice with leafy greens and meat to a noodle soup, such as mi Quang, a pork dish native to central Vietnam.
South Korean schoolchildren typically enjoy a balanced lunch that incorporates a soup element, noodles, meat, kimchi, and maybe an egg dish such as pajeon (scallion pancakes). It seems like it’s working—a whopping 93 percent of students graduate high school in South Korea, almost 25 percent more than the United States.
School lunch in Madrid is balanced and delightful. One example could be scrambled eggs, vegetable soup, and a banana yogurt. Banana yogurt makes sure that kids get a serving of fruit before siesta.
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