Lunch in US Schools- Is it Really that Bad?

School+lunches+across+the+world+differ.
School lunches across the world differ.

School lunches across the world differ.

School lunches across the world differ.

Lukas, Staff Writer

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Most of us might think that midday meals at school are typically terrible. We all expect a good meal after being in school for four hours, but often the food doesn’t meet our personal preferences. Besides, the cafeteria advises that we eat a full meal, consisting of vegetables, fruits, grain, protein, and dairy. But is our cafeteria food in the United States really that bad compared to lunches served to kids in other countries? Are lunches that are served to kids across the United States as nutritional as in other parts of the world?

Let’s take a close look at South Korea, for example. Located on the Korean peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, you would assume that kids there would have a fish-based diet. In fact, one of the main food options is soup. Fish soup to be exact. To have fish soup served in our cafeteria as a main dish would be a luxury for us Americans. Tofu served over rice is another local dish that is popular in South Korea. Tofu contains 61 calories in 3.5 ounces. Compare that to pizza? Based on a website called fatsecret.com, one can infer that pizza has about 273 calories per 3.5 ounces! That means that tofu contains about 78% less calories than pizza. However, South Korean school lunches offer fresh vegetables, just like the United States. Maybe it means that South Korea has healthier food options than we do.

If we travel across Asia into Europe, we come across three countries that have famous cuisines attached to their legacy- France, Italy, and Greece, all three being maritime countries. They have meat as the dominant sector of school meals: Chicken for Greece, fish for Italy, and, most surprisingly, steak for France, these three being the type of meat served for the most part. Seems like a filet mignon, which Trader Joe’s’ prices at $21.99 per ounce, could be a lot more expensive than buying a simple piece of cut meat in France! This is because France serves what we would call better quality meat more often. Plus, Greece and France advertise dairy in other ways than milk. Greeks typically eat a unique version of Greek yogurt, known as στραγγιστο, or straggisto, which means strained, with some sort of toppings, typically pomegranate seeds, and French people eat straight-up cheese. Now, some people may say that the most popular yogurt in Greece, Fage, has 130 calories, and compared to other Greek yogurt brands, that that’s a lot, but Fage has 23 grams of protein compared to Chobani, the most popular brand in the United States, which has 15 grams.

So we’ve come to a lot in our journey to view school lunches around the world, but what about in South America? Brazil borders all but two countries in South America (Chile and Ecuador), and has a strategic position on the Atlantic. Just like in Europe, Brazil starts off with meat: pork. Plus, black beans and rice are also enjoyed. That sounds great, right? Along with these great foods are some vegetables and plantains, the latter being a popular food in Latin America. Black beans, which many South Americans also eat, contain 339 calories per 100 grams while pinto beans, which 42 percent of Americans eat, the majority, contains 347 calories per 1/10 gram. Even though the numbers are close to each other, there still is some kind of difference, which show that Brazilians eat larger quantities of healthier and, for some, tastier beans.

As we come to the end of our trip, we must realize the whole picture- the lunches of the different countries don’t compare just to our lunch- it can also compare to the whole of the national diet. Many Americans are obese, according to CNN, 40% of adults and 19% of youths are obese- a trend that’s hard reverse. We don’t need any more facts to prove this. What we need to prove is that we can all make healthier choices with our lunches based on other countries’ models. Remember: while the world bases their countries on our government, education system, and other factors, perhaps we should base our food on the world.

 

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