15 School Lunches Around The World That Might Freak You Out!

15 school lunches around the world

Would your kids eat goulash soup or mussels for lunch? What about seaweed? Depending on what country you are in, these are things regularly served to kids at school. Here are actual photos of school meals from 15 countries around the world. You may be surprised.

 15 school lunches around the world

After living in the US and Canada as a child and seeing what my own children ate for lunch at school in California, I am all too aware of just how bad school lunches can be. A veritable revolving door of unhealthy fast-food, burritos, tacos, pizzas and enchiladas. Some schools even have onsite McDonald’s’ and taco bell: YUCK!

But not all countries have such unsavoury institutionalized school lunches for school aged children. Take for instance what my daughter ate at her preschool while living in France. On the other end of the spectrum are school lunches in lesser developed countries like in Kenya where some kids only get a bowl of fresh avocados.

Below are photos of actual cafeteria lunches and descriptions of 15 school lunches from around the world.

1- USA

school lunces around the world/ US school Lunch: enchiladas, rice and beans

Photo Source:

Menu: Enchiladas with beans, rice, fresh strawberries and milk.

This American school meal actually does not look too bad. It’s pretty typical for schools to serve Mexican inspired dishes like this one.

Milk is almost always served in U.S. schools.  Unfortunately the variety served at the schools my children went to in the U.S. were usually a rotating menu of burgers, burrito, pizzas, tacos. They even served McDonald’s burgers at school.

2- Japan:

school lunces around the world/ Japan: childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Pre-school Lunch: Rice w/konbu (a sweet seaweed), nikkujagga (beef with veggies), omelets, sausage, potato puff, and apple.
Source: Jevinj

This is a school Lunch at a pre-school in Japan where the kids range in age from 1-6yrs old. This pictures one of the “teachers” lunches which is exactly the same as the kids meals except with smaller portions.

I actually love seaweed on rice so this looks good to me. Espeically Konbu in onigiri. mmmmm

3- China school lunch

school lunces around the world/ China: Childrens school lunch

photo source

Menu: Tofu, rice and vegetables.

Tofu would never be served in a school in the U.S. I grew up eating tofu and absolutely love it.

4- Brazil:

school lunces around the world/ Brasil: Childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Contents: Rice, Beans, Bread, Meat with vegetables, banana and alface, acelga salad

This looks like it could be a home cooked meal to me. Pretty good. I wonder what kids from Brazil think of this.

5- Taiwan elementary School Lunch:

school lunces around the world/Taiwan: childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Menu: On the left: mushroom and minced pork, in the middle: Chinese chives stir fry with tempura, on the right: eggplant (probably stir fry), soup with radish and pork, and steamed white rice.

6- Ghana elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/Ghana: childrens school lunch

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Menu: Looks like rice with some kind of sauce. Maybe protein?

This doesn’t look like much compared to what eastern kids eat.

7- Thailand

school lunces around the world/Thailand: childrens school lunch

photo source

Menu: Sautéed chicken over rice.

I am sure whatever this is, it is probably pretty tasty.

8- Czech Republic elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/Czech: childrens school lunch

Photo source

Most of the kids eat at school canteens (it’s convenient and cheaper for their parents).

The lunch usually consists of a soup and a main course. Usually there is a salad or some sort of fruit along with something sweet for desert. There is always tea and water with sweet syrup on tap and cacao if sweet buns are for lunch.

9- Sudan school lunch

school lunces around the world/sudan: childrens school lunch

photo source – udith Kaine

I’m not really sure what this is? Maybe it’s rice or corn paste?

This photo kind of shocked me.

10- Kenya Pre-school lunch

school lunces around the world/Kenya childrens school lunch

Photo source

This meal of avocados may look measly but it is very nutritious. The fats from the avocado are invaluable, especially in a country where malnutrition is so widespread.

11- India: elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/India, childrens school lunch

Photo source = http://newshopper.sulekha.com/india-world-food-day_photo_1015648.htm

Menu: This is probably a rice and curry dish.

It’s not uncommon for kids in India to eat on the ground outside. And yes, kids in India eat with their hands.

UPDATE** one of my readers pointed something out to me. Harleena said…

“this is the scene in most of the village schools only, where kids eat with their hands, either because there lack of education or they can’t afford. The ones in the cities are pretty different and most kids carry their own tiffin and there’s a lot of options to choose from, which are again healthy and nutritious. Some schools have a proper canteen as it’s an easier option for parents – so there’a a lot of different kinds.”

12- U.K. school lunch

school lunces around the world/UK, childrens school lunch

photo source

Menu: hamburger and grated carrots

13- Honduras school lunch

school lunces around the world/Honduras, childrens school lunch

photo source

Menu: Arroz Con Leche (Rice with milk).

You can eat it cold or hot and it is often seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla.

14- France school lunch

school lunces around the world/France, childrens school lunch

photo source

Menu: Chicken, potatoes, cheese, salad and desert with water.

school lunces around the world/France, childrens school lunch

photo source

Moules et Frites: Mussels and fries

I had to post a second photo of a school lunch in Francce because this dish is served quite often.

It has been served to my pre-schooler as well as my two teenage sons at school.

A thing to note about French school meals.

Milk is never served. Instead cheese or yogurt is ALWAYS served. Water is the only beverage served to kids.

There is always a vegetable and fruit option along with a desert and bread option.

French fries are shown here because Mussels and fries are a very popular dish in France. Especially in the south of France. Other than that, fries are not served very often.

15- Some Kids Go Hungry At Lunch

school lunces around the world/hungry-kids

It’s a proven fact that children cannot concentrate in class, especially in the afternoon, on an empty stomach.  Unfortunately some children are too poor and can’t eat lunch. This isn’t just in places like Uganda or other third world countries. it’s happening in first world countries too including poor sections of the U.S.

Are You Interested In Learning More

what's for lunch: how schoolchildren eat around the world book

If you are interested in learning more about what schoolchildren eat around the world, you should check out this book called What’s for Lunch?

In What’s for Lunch, Andrea Curtis talks about inequality in the food eaten by a typical school child from thirteen countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Russia, Japan, United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

In some countries, the meals are nutritious and well-balanced. In others they barely satisfy basic nutrition standards.

photo source for main photo.

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