Mackerel cooked in miso, radish white salad, pickled plums, sliced vegetables and a variety of fresh fruit, many people think this is the restaurant’s menu.
But in reality, it’s the one-day lunch menu for March at Konan Elementary School in Fukuroi City, Shizouka Prefecture (Japan) – where students are encouraged to eat a lot of fresh green food.
At noon the class turns into a “restaurant”. The chorus “Itadakimasu” rang out. It is a polite Japanese way of saying that means “Please”, emphasizing thanks to the person who worked on preparing the meal.
Different from the one where mackerel was cooked in miso soup, one Friday the menu featured grilled cod, sweet corn sautéed with cabbage, Italian-style vegetable soup, creamy white bread, a small carton of milk. Serves look small, but still reach 667 kcal – suitable for 11-year-olds and guaranteed not to go hungry until home.
A lunch for 11-year-olds at Konan School. Photo: The Guardian
Konan is not the only school that prepares school lunches for students. In Japan, a school meal called “Kyushoku” was introduced across the country in the 1950s to prevent children from having to eat nutritious meals in the postwar years. It is made with fresh ingredients, containing iron, calcium and fiber content regulated by a government-run program for preschool through junior high school children.
Over the past seven decades, “Kyushoku”, carried out by most elementary and junior high schools, is credited with contributing to the impressive longevity of the Japanese people, helping to reduce childhood obesity. Children and adults are among the lowest in the OECD countries.
Fukuroi, where Konan Elementary School is based, is one of the local “Kyushoku” school meals that perform very well. As evidenced by the fact that last year, the city received the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice award for promoting children’s healthy eating habits, with the help of manufacturers. Food export and supply locally.
Every day, the city’s school lunch center prepares and sends more than 10,000 lunches to kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools. Most meals are inspired by Japanese cuisine but also include Chinese, Korean and European dishes. The menu is formulated with different dishes from day to month and month to month, depending on the seasonal foods.
The cost per meal is usually 250 yen (back in March, equivalent to about 54,000 VND at the current exchange rate). Parents must pay half of the cost, with the remainder coming from the local government.
In terms of food, the government usually orders it from local suppliers. Mr. Toshiyuki Suzuki, a kohlrabi farmer in Fukuroi, said farmers transfer 4 tons of vegetables each year to schools in the city.
“The vegetables we sell often have to go through a distribution system, but when we deliver them to schools, we transfer them directly. As a result, the children are always able to eat the freshest vegetables,” Mr. Suzuki said.
Working closely with the City Board of Education, Mr. Suzuki and other farmers in the area have helped push the proportion of locally grown vegetables in school meals from over 13% in 2012 to nearly 32% by last year. This also creates peace of mind about the quality of the food in the school meal.
“We think school lunch is important. The results of regular check-ups in children are generally good and we believe that school lunch is related to that,” said Koji Ishizuka, department manager kitchen department at the Fukuroi City Board of Education, shares.
Children in Japan use a school-prepared lunch and have no other choice. Photo: Shutterstock
Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, a health policy specialist at the Medical School of the University of Tokyo, said the “Kyushoku” school meal program has many outstanding features. “Kyushoku” provides a unified menu for all children at each school for five days a week, unlike the usual cafeteria lunches in the US and UK.
“That means children have no choice regarding menu items and have no option to bring rice from home or eat school-supplied meals,” said Mr. Miyawaki, who said that this helps. avoid imbalance in nutritional supply, at the same time “conceal” the economic difference of each child’s family.
Not just for the simple purpose of providing adequate nutrition, school meals in Japan are considered an orthodox part of education. Since 2005, the Government has required schools to teach children about the origin and ingredients of dishes. Students are also educated to eat all their food.
“Remember that a lot of people have been involved in the preparation of lunch, especially when you come across a vegetable that you think you won’t like it” is the message often mentioned in student meals. in Japan.