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In each country and region, various school lunch programs have been implemented, depending on the local educational system and culture.
In the following, examples of school lunch programs implemented in foreign countries will be introduced for reference when examining Japan’s food education. The data were collected with the support Japanese embassies in foreign countries.
United States of America (US) In the US, the National School Lunch Act of 1946 was established to provide schoolchildren, notably those from low-income families, with the opportunity to intake sufficient nutrients and promote the domestic consumption of agricultural products to achieve equal opportunity in education. The Food and Nutrition Service of the Federal Department of Agriculture supervises school lunches on a national level, and state departments of education supervise school lunches on a state level. Each school district decides whether to implement a school lunch program as well as what menus to offer according to the National School Lunch Act. Some school districts provide menus for the day and others let pupils choose the days on which they will have school lunch. At schools that do not implement school lunch programs or have days on which no school lunches are provided, children eat out or bring lunch from home. Some schools that implement school lunch programs have staff trained in nutrition and food safety.
United Kingdom In the UK, almost all elementary and junior high schools seem to provide school lunch. Schools that have pupils who are qualified to eat school lunch free of charge or pupils whose parents want the provision of school lunch have to provide school lunch, following the guideline. Companies commissioned by schools plan menus with nutritionists. Some schools have their own nutritionists.
France In France, municipalities determine whether to provide school lunches at kindergartens and elementary schools. For secondary education (licess, etc.), it is the decision of each school. The national government sets the national criteria for school lunch prices and issues related to nutrition and hygiene. Many schools have cafeterias, and children can eat their lunch in these cafeterias if they want to. Approximately half of them frequently utilize the cafeterias. Elementary and junior high school students who do not eat lunch at school cafeterias go home to eat lunch. Senior high school students bring their own lunch or eat lunch at nearby cafes or restaurants.
Germany One of the characteristics of the German educational system is the importance it places on “parents” and “households.” It is therefore usual in that country for schoolchildren to go home to eat lunch with their families. There are therefore no laws concerning school lunches, and schools do not implement school lunch programs in general. At present, the federal government is fostering the introduction of full-time schools. Accordingly, some states have established full-time schools, which give classes until late in the afternoon. The establishers of these schools can open school cafes at their own disposal, and students can eat at these cafes at their own cost or at the cost of the school.
Republic of Korea (South Korea) In South Korea, a law concerning school lunches was established in 1981. As of the end of 2003, 99.8% of the country’s elementary schools, 95.9% of its junior high schools, and 98.4% of its senior high schools have school lunch programs. As for menus, the law stipulates that the meals are to comprise rice, three dishes (soup, main dish, and side dish), and dessert such as fruit. Each school (or company commissioned by the school) has nutritionists who plan well-balanced meals according to the school lunch nutrition criteria.