Monday, October 04, 2010

Weird School Lunches

A couple months ago, "school lunch" was all the rage on Japanese TV. A guy named Hideo Makuuchi published a book called "Weird School Lunches," which featured terrible food combinations served up to elementary and junior high school students in different parts of Japan. (School lunch in Japan is mandatory in most public schools; kids cannot choose what they eat or bring their own lunch from home.)

O, dashing prince!
You can check out all the odd combinations with glossy, full-color photos in the book on Amazon; a smattering of the funny ones are listed here:
  • White Bread + Rice Cakes
  • Brown Sugar Bread and Miso Soup
  • Toast with Jam and Vinegared Pork
  • Steamed Strawberry Bread and Kitsune Udon
  • Curry Tofu Stirfry and Chocolate Deep-Fried Bread
  • Curry Udon and an American Hotdog
  • Yakisoba and a Donut
To be fair, when interviewed, the nutrition experts at offending school districts defended their position, saying they are required by the national government to provide a certain number of calories and amount of vitamins and minerals in each lunch. But, Japanese kids are (in my opinion) some of the pickiest eaters in the world. So, the nutrition experts continued, its necessary to choose high calorie foods kids are willing to eat and pair them with a smattering of other stuff to meet the vitamin requirements.

Unfortunately, if they had spent any time at an actual school, they'd know that half of the students trade food during lunch hour so they only have to eat what they like. Vegetables and fruit are all too often pawned off to the one kid in the corner "who'll eat anything." Like rising generations in most other first-world countries, Japanese kids are losing self-discipline fast. And teachers are in no rush to stop the trend; lawsuits against teachers are on the rise, too, for actions as simple as verbally reprimanding a misbehaving student.

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