Here’s What 10 School Lunches Look Like Around the World

published Aug 7, 2018
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Think back to the days of your youth in the cafeteria. Do you envision chicken nuggets, doughy pizza, and questionable hot dogs that often dominated the school lunch line? Or maybe you picture sugary treats like chocolate milk, Cosmic Brownies, and Twinkies that accompanied your main dish? For older millennials in particular, this might be a familiar scenario, but things are changing a little bit around the country.

Nowadays, there’s a greater push for schools to step it up. With additional nutritional programming in place, and parents’ growing concern over what their kids are eating, school lunches look different. A more modern, home-packed, school lunch in America might consist of something like a turkey sandwich, crunchy carrots, and blueberries for a sweet treat these days.

And, of course, Americans aren’t the only ones trying to make sure their little ones are satiated at school. Curious to know how your local school lunch compares to kids’ around the world? Here are 10 international destinations and their take on cafeteria cuisine.

1. Israel

This homemade meal consists of yogurt and muesli, an avocado and tomato salad, fluffy bread, fresh bell peppers, and seasoned chickpeas.

2. Panama

A simple but filling take on school lunch in Panama City, Panama, includes chili con carne, rice, tortilla chips, and pico de gallo and queso for dipping.

3. Sweden

Scandinavian countries are known for their use of fresh, seasonal ingredients, and this student’s lunch plate doesn’t deviate from that norm. Here we have poached cod with a creamy egg-based sauce, peas, corn, and miniature baked potatoes.

4. India

This homemade school lunch includes fluffy white rice, aromatic dal, and uttapam (a dosa-like dish) for a satisfying meal. Sweet papaya balances out the plate for a fresh dessert replacement.

5. Japan

When you think of school lunches in Japan, you most likely envision cute characters in bento boxes – or the practice of kyaraben. Although some Japanese parents opt to create works of culinary art for their kids, the type of meal seen below is more representative of Japanese school lunches as a whole.

This one has rice, seaweed salad, fried fish, a broth-based soup, milk, and a small jelly-based dessert.

6. Puerto Rico

School lunch in Puerto Rico doesn’t look too different from what you’d find in the contiguous United States. Featured here is a plate of rice, beans, sauced meat, bread, fruit cocktail, and chocolate milk.

7. Russia

Fish soup, baked fish, rice, brown bread, and a sugary juice are par for the course in Russia.

8. France

French school lunches have long been viewed as an ideal nutritious counterpart to the hotdogs and hamburgers of American cafeterias. The well-balanced meal above features a fresh romaine salad, a baguette, beet salad with eggs and ham, and an entrée plate that includes stewed meat, a hearty portion of lentils, and creamed vegetables.

9. Nigeria

This homemade Nigerian lunch will make your taste buds water. A stir-fry of leafy greens and veal accompany starchy fried plantains.

10. Finland

A light white fish salad with bell peppers, potatoes, fresh greens, and a hearty seeded roll make this Finnish school lunch appear delicious and refreshing.