Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Japanese school lunches

page from weekly lunch menu at Japanese primary school
~ courtesy of Coco&Me ~

Across Montana and in many other U.S. states, schools are planting gardens and using local produce in their meals. But we could learn a lot from Japanese schools about making lunchtime an educational experience.

On the charming British blog Coco&Me, Tamami shared what she learned about school lunches on a recent trip to Japan.

In her blog post about her visit, Tamami dissects a school lunch menu a Japanese friend showed her.

For example, Tamami translates the text in the photo above:

"Cucumber – characterised by crunchy mouthfeel & warty exterior. One of the fresh summer vegetables."
"Pumpkin – Full of beta-carotene. Maintaining properties for healthy eyes & skin. Builds resistance. Lots of vitamin E & C."
"The information on which area the ingredients are produced is publicised on the council homepage."

I encourage you to visit the post to see all the pages of the menu and read Tamami's descriptions and translations.

But briefly, Japanese schools value the opportunity to educate their children about food. Every ingredient in the lunch is itemized, even by weight, and drawings and captions clarify what exactly the food is and why it is important for health.

I was especially impressed by a note at the bottom of the menu.

As I read through Tamami's blog post, I wondered how Montana schools might adapt such a detailed menu to the lunch program.

Could ag classes gather information about where the food comes from, names of ranchers and other food producers? Even knowing that some food comes from far away would be educational.

Could language arts classes write the text?

Could science classes add botanical details?

Could art classes supply illustrations?

Could the school newspaper put it all together and print out a weekly menu to share with students and their families?

There's a lot of creativity in our schools. And I know from my years of teaching middle school that there's plenty of energy and enthusiasm as well.

Students tend to consider lunch the best time of the school day. Why not also make it the most important part of their education, something they will carry through their entire lives?