School Lunch – More Than Just Food

The topic of school lunches and food come up very often in conversations between parents and school. There are so many dynamics at play. For example, I well remember a case where a boy used to tuck in heartily to his school lunch every day, but went home repeatedly telling his mother he didn’t like it, wasn’t eating it etc. Eventually, the school counsellor teased out of him gently that his Mum was a very proud cook. he really liked the school lunch, but feared he would hurt her feelings if he told her this!

Here’s an interesting article that makes visual comparisons of school lunches around the world (and finds the typical US example uninspiring!).

School Lunches Around the World – Fast Company

What is very clear is that school lunch as a common, shared meal is the norm in most education systems. Most see great benefits that outweigh any of the inconveniences. I am very firmly convinced that school meals are a very positive aspect in the schooling of children in a holistic environment. I have seen extreme cases of what happens when there isn’t a common, shared school lunch; Indian students with such narrow food tastes that they either turned down superb overseas university placements or returned home early. I’ve also seen troublesome cases where vegetarian children were being fed non-vegetarian food by their friends, against the wishes of their parents and also where the entire food taken to school consisted of junk food and fast-food take outs.

Having school meals together when i went to school wasn’t always a fun activity. Staff and teachers didn’t eat or move in the areas where the children were. The results included brutal bullying and struggles in the queues to get served, food stolen from people’s plates and some general nasty behaviour. Thankfully, these situations are no longer the norm. Meal times in school with all children eating the school meal together, in the company of their educators are a valuable time in the day to come together informally when things are calm, when conversations can be insightful and reflective and the school bonds as a learning community. Children, through teacher and peer influence broaden their food tastes, reduce fussiness, learn table etiquette and manners. The menus and recipes can be guided by nutritionists so that the children are eating in ways that are healthy and supportive of effective energy levels to learn and be physically active.

The jokes and cliches about school dinners are a thing of the past. Now, I believe, quite simply, its a key constituent in a truly holistic learning environment.

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