foods What School Lunch Is Like in 8 Different Countries Around the World  

Steve Wright
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Have you ever wondered what school lunch in other countries looks like?

You often hear that America has school lunches that are low in nutrition and flavor and promote bad eating habits to children. International school lunches, however, are certainly a mixed bag when it comes to providing everything a growing child needs while not costing the various governments millions of dollars.

Some countries, like Finland, have found a way to provide excellent school lunches that are free. Public school lunches in other countries, however, can get very expensive, with some schools in France charging the equivalent of a restaurant meal for food in their school cafeterias.

If you have ever wondered what school lunch around the world looks like, then this is the list for you. Keep reading to find out what kids around the world have at school lunch.


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American school lunches are typically not fondly remembered by adults. Budget cuts in schools have seen the quality of school lunches eroded over the years to the point that First Lady Michelle Obama has become involved. Stats seem to back this up, noting that two out of three middle schoolers who eat school lunches regularly are overweight. 

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The most unique aspect of Finnish school meals is that they are free. This change was part of a social revolution during WWII and Finns see the free school meals program as an essential part of their culture. The Finnish model means that school lunches cost eight percent of the education cost of each pupil. Each meal must have fresh and cooked vegetables covering half the plate, fish at least once a week, and berries or fruit for dessert, among other regulations.

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There is no national school lunch program in France, so lunches there are funded by the local municipalities. This means that the wealthiest in Paris can pay up to $7 for a school meal, with an average cost being around $3 and low-income support being available. These three and four-course meals are provided to around 6 million children each day, with primary and middle school children having a set menu and high schools having a couple of options. Kids are also mandated to spend 30 minutes at the table to properly eat their food.

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Most American kids would be pretty intimidated by a South Korean school lunch. Bringing lunch from home is unheard of in South Korea and the monthly cost for lunches is around $34 (with subsidies available). The lunches may be mysterious, but they are also nutritious and filling, with no microwaveable food and everything prepared fresh on the day it is served. Soups and fish are major staples of South Korean school lunches.

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