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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

photo source

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.

Fwhats preschool in france like?

French Preschool in France: What’s It Like?

what's preschool in France like?

Are you curious about what preschool is like in France? Do you plan on spending some time in France and wonder if French preschool is right for your child? Here is a peak into what school is like for my daughter and my thoughts.

Update 2016- I wrote this post during the first 2 years we were in France. My daughter was 4 and 5 back then and a lot has changed. She is now 9 going on 10 years old and she has been in the French school system for five years. She is also no longer in public school. We moved to Montpellier and decided to give private school a try which I will write about soon.

First, general info about preschool in France

first-day-of-school in La Garde for catherine. She sat down and started colouring
Preschool in France is called école maternelle. Pronounced [ay-kole ma-terre-nel]

Unlike U.S. and Canada, preschool is fully sponsored from the age of 3 to 6 years old. (it’s free). Preschool is not mandatory but most parents do send their kids to preschool from about 3 onward especially if they work.

There are three levels of pre-school.

-pre-school, small sections =  école maternelle, la petite section – (3 to 4 years olds)

-pre-school, middle section= école maternelle, la moyenne section -( 4 to 5 year olds)

-pre-school, big or high sectionécole maternelle, la grande section – (5 to 6 years old)

Our daughter attended moyenne (middle section) in Marseille and la grande section in a town called La Garde. After pIreschool she was promoted to CP which is the first official year of primary school. It’s comparable to Kindergarten in North America.

How Long Is A Preschool Day / Week?

Pre-school students generally start at 8:30 in the morning until 4:20 in the afternoon.

Kids go to school everyday EXCEPT Wednesday. (update: As of 2015, primary school kids now have a half day on Wednesdays. They usually finish up just before lunch at 11:30 is)

On the surface, this may sound long but there are several things to consider here.

1-If you are a working parent in France, you would have to put your kids in before and after school care. Having a longer day at school means that many parents don’t have to send their kids to after school care or they can minimize the amount of after school care needed.

2-Kids used to have Wednesday off but now have a half day of school which gives kids a little break from their regular school hours and routine.

3- Lunch is about one and a half to two hours long and the kids have several breaks throughout the day to play and run around.

Preschool Lunch: The makings of future foodies

Lunch is served a la cantine in France

The French Take Food Seriously

One thing to note is the French take their lunch time very seriously. People in France generally eat slower, they eat smaller portions and take longer breaks for lunch. They also enjoy GOOD FOOD. This slower and eat better food culture can bee seen at the preschool level.

Longer Lunches

Up to two hours for lunch break which is eaten at “La Cantine” (cafateria).

The first 45 minutes to an hour is spent eating and the rest playing with friends in the yard.

Not all kids eat at La Cantine.

Many parents pick their kids up at lunch time and then return them back to school at the end of 2 hours. The longer lunch break makes it possible for parents to drive to pick up the kids with plenty of time to eat together.

Meals cost about 3,50 to 4,25 depending on the preschool and you usually pay a month in advance for your child’s meals. Some parent pay less. It just depends on your income.

What is “La Cantine” Like?

At the 2 schools my daughter attended, the kids sit at a round table with real plates and utensils. No Styrofoam or plastic utensils.

The cantinière (lunch ladies) come around and places napkins around the children’s necks before serving the kids food  like you would at home: family style.

Serve Food Family Style Just Like At Home.

Each lunch lady, has several huge serving platters and bowls from which she serves each child. There are usually 5 different food items that each child gets not including bread. (see menu below).

The food looks surprisingly appetizing, like something made with love at home, probably because much of the food is prepared on site and served family style.

What Type of Food Do Kids Eat?

French preschool lunch menu.

Above is a sample menu from the school my daughter attended her first year in French preschool. Notice the different columns for the five food groups.


Kids taste buds are cultivated from a young age in France. No dumb down kiddie food served. Catherine get’s a big dose of French food that would have many adults drooling  with envy.

She also has eaten some things at school that might send some people running for the hills like the time she had duck pate and another time she had baby octopus salad.

What’s on the menu?

Things like mussels, octopus, beets, grated carrots, fish, blue cheese, chicken paté and more. All things a north American would not expect their kids to eat. Maybe not even in the UK either.

Every preschool meal has 5 items for lunch: 

1- One a starter: such as grated carrots in a vinaigrette

2- One main plate: Such as lamb or Rake (fish) curry

3- One Side: such as green beans or polenta

4- One cheese or dairy product: Usually cheese but sometimes yoghurt

5- Desert: such as fresh fruit  or fruits with sweet syrup.

Plus a Pastry: One bread option

Surprise “NO MILK”

You might be surprised to learn that milk is not served a la Cantine. Instead, children are given water to drink. Not juice, not coke, not milk but water.


The emphasis is put on the cheese column of the menu rather than serving milk. There are over 350 cheese types and it seems like the schools want all the kids to try as many as possible.

I’ve counted over 25 different cheeses that rotate on the kids menus. A few, i’ve tried myself and have put hair on my chest.

Typical Preschool Class work

3 ring binder that comes home every couple of months full of Catherine's work

Every few months, a 3 ringed binder comes home with Catherine filled with all of her work.

I really like this method because rather than sending the kids home everyday with random papers, I get to flip through her work in an organized fashion and see the progression of her work.

I do notice an emphasis on hand writing practice. Something that is sorely missing from many schools in the U.S. This could be why so many

French people have beautiful handwriting.

Lot’s of Snails: Escargot

Lately I’ve noticed a theme. Certain things are very prominent in the French culture and subsequently in Catherine’s school work like owls, hedgehogs, crepes and as of late, lots of snails. –>> ESCARGOT. 

Here area few photos of the 3 ring binder with the snail work she has been doing.

SPELLING: They learn to spell “escargot”

Learning to spell escargot


Body parts: They learn the body parts of a snail

Identifying the body parts of a snail


Word Recognition: They learn to point out the word escargot in a sea of words

word recognition: finding the word escargot


Counting: They learn to count snails

counting snails in french preschool. fun fun fun

There were more, but I think you get the point.

Snails At Home

This affinity towards snails transcends to her life at home now too. Catherine looks for snails in her free time. Here’s a picture of her holding one in her hands.

weather permitting, she plays with escargot in her free time.

Catherine likes to draw snails in her free time too. Here is another random snail drawing. Very elaborate if you ask me.

Even in her free time, she draws escargot, snails

General Questions

What if my child does not speak French?

Kids learn so quickly just by interacting. You are pretty much guaranteed that your child will be speaking french almost fluently by the  end of one school year.

I personally know 4 other families who sent their kids to French preschool without speaking one word of French. At the end of the school year, all of their kids were speaking and communicating in French.

What if I want to home-school my child?

I understand that some parents prefer to home school their kids. I considered it myself.

However, If one of your goals is for your child to become bilingual and to pick up the little nuances of local culture and you have limited time in France, than preschool is an easy, fast and fun way to expose them.

They learn organically from playing with other children.

Catherine often comes home from school and teaches us something new about French culture that we had no idea existed.

She is very proud of those moments.

Lastly, you can always supplement preschool with your own home schooling curriculum or you can take your child out of preschool all together if things don’t work out.

Conclusion: Is preschool right for your child?

catherine teachers from 2011 in Marseille

I can’t answer whether or not sending your child to French preschool in France is right for you and your child.

I can tell you that my daughter loves school.

Any and all hesitations, doubts and concerns I had about sending her to preschool in France are long gone now.

I truly feel I made the right choice.

Catherine has made many friends and so have my husband and I through the parents of Catherine’s friends.

If  for one moment I did not think she was benefiting, thriving or enjoying herself, I would take her out in a flash.

Coming Soon

What’s it like to go to High School and Middle School In France.

Pictured below, all three of our kids sitting on the bench outside of Catherine’s first day of preschool.first-day-of-school in La Garde for catherine. we all went to pick her up after school.


How to educate the kids while living abroad

How To Homeschool While Travelling Or Living Abroad: Beginners Guide

One of the problems when people travel long term or live abroad is how to educate and keep your kids on track with the rest of their schoolmates back in your home country. 


We chose to mainstream our kids in public French school while in France.

But what if you don’t want to be tied to a school schedule and travel to more than one country in any given year?  What if you want to do an around the world trip with your kids? 

Simple, you can always homeschool while travelling.

Today’s article is a guest post written by Susie Brown. Her article is a great introduction into the world of homeschooling while travelling or living abroad with kids.

It’s hard but not as hard as people think. As Susie puts it, “if she can do it, anyone can”.

Take it away Susie.

Why I home-schooled the kids

When my oldest son was having trouble keeping up in school we considered all of our options. And after checking into everything that the school system had to offer us, we weren’t very impressed. It seemed that our son was doomed to fall through the cracks of the education system and there was nothing we could do about it. We decided to try homeschooling, mostly because we figured that it couldn’t be any worse than the other options.

After a few weeks of homeschooling our sons face began to shine again, he was a much happier boy, and we witnessed how his mind was able to develop in ways that it didn’t while he was in school. It turns out that the school atmosphere just wasn’t right for him. Eventually, our other kids wanted to try homeschooling too, and that was the beginning of our homeschooling family adventure.

As it turned out, one of the greatest perks of homeschooling is being on a different schedule as everybody else. When the zoos, museums, and other fun outing destinations are flooded with people on weekends and holidays we avoid going, because we can go on school days in order to avoid the lines and the crowds. And when we moved we didn’t need to look for new schools, nor did we need to worry about our children’s curriculum changing.

For anyone who is considering relocating for a limited time, homeschooling might be a great option. But if you plan to send your kids back to the same school system, you will obviously need to keep them up to speed. Thankfully, many homeschooling families find that their children are able to learn the material a lot faster than their in-school peers.

Staying on track with the curriculum back at home

The first step towards staying on track with the school is by asking the school. Go to the school where your child would otherwise be attending and explain to them your travel plans and your plans to return. That is show them that you consider them too as important educators in the life of your child, which is a very engaging and gratifying feeling for teachers. After explaining your travel plans, ask them for a general idea of the curriculum.

The teachers should be able to give you a general answer. Although, teachers do improvise and readjust their lesson plans throughout the course of the school year, they are required to cover certain material. Once you find out what that required material is, you can make your own lesson plan of how to learn it.

By the way, planning your own curriculum might seem like a daunting undertaking, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. I have no formal training in being an educator, and if I could do it, so can you.

Another benefit of being in contact with your child’s school is that the school might be able to give you their own suggestions for what and how to study with your children.

I know of a mother who when she told her child’s school of their plans to relocate to Argentina, the school was smart enough to take advantage of the situation. Her child’s grade learned about Argentina’s history and culture, and the mother and school coordinated their curriculums together. When the school learned about the native Argentinean tribes they would go visit the ruins video camera in hand. The school benefited by showing the videos to students, and the family benefited by remaining in sync with the school’s curriculum.

3 Simple Ways To Teach While Travelling or Living Abroad

How parents go about assuring that their kids are getting the best education possible during the homeschooling process is a matter or trial and error since so much of learning is child specific.

1- Online learning aids are fun and give immediate feedback

I am a big fan of using online learning sites in order to teach important concepts. Online learning sites are often designed in the same way as video games. Similar to the way a child needs to figure out certain things in order to win a video game she will likewise need to figure out how to “win” the online learning games. In the course of playing and winning those games they learn fundamental concepts.

Whereas if a student doesn’t understand a concept when they take a test or do homework, which is bad news for their grade and their self-image, with online learning sites they can just try again. Most kids love trying again, just like they like playing video games over again.

To get an idea of what I am talking about go to www.ixl.com, a math learning website, where you can try out their features for free. Ideally I don’t recommend using online learning sites as the main component for teaching, but rather as an assistant to your regular learning schedule.

2- One-on-one learning

My favorite thing about homeschooling is the fact that my kids are completely engaged in their learning. Since there is someone constantly there to help them in their learning (usually that’s me), they never slip into passivity.

Take advantage of learning opportunities

The learning that can be accomplished through being exposed to a new culture is immeasurable. Here are a few ideas for how to do that

  • Learn about the history of your host culture and then go and visit the sites which you learned about.
  • Go to museums more than once
  • Learn the language
  • Learn skills that are culture specific like learning Chinese calligraphy in China, or learning how to cook French cuisine in France.

3- Join a local community of homeschoolers

Homeschooling exists in most places in the world, and homeschooling families usually make plans to meet up together on a regular basis. Inquire about these homeschool community activities and you may find a community that is happy to accept you with open arms. Homeschoolers, as a general rule, are some of the nicest and most accepting people that you will ever meet. These mini-communities are a great way to make friends and they can be a valuable source of information and networking.

WARNING:  What to be Careful About

When we first started researching the possibility of homeschooling we decided to go right to the experts- the products of homeschooled education. I spoke to a few young adults who had graduated from homeschool high school, and whom I consider to be very successful. I asked them if they had any advice about homeschooling. Their unified response. “Don’t let homeschooling become no-schooling.” Although homeschooling does allow you to be much more flexible in your activities, it is still important to pursue goals and stick to some type of schedule.


SusieBrownAuthor Bio: Susie Brown is a FastUpFront Blog contributor and business author. Fastupfront offers working capital to businesses in need of a loan.

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