What’s For Lunch At Schools Around The World?

Published February 12, 2015
Updated December 12, 2023

You'll be amazed at what some countries are feeding their children for lunch.

School lunch in the United States: hot dog with chili

School lunch in the United States: hot dog with chili.

Americans are often criticized for their relationship with food: we’re too fat; we eat too quickly; our food is greasy and unhealthy. For the most part, that may be true, but as much as we can learn from the eating habits of other countries, it’s also important not to take our food for granted.

In a way, the school lunch provides us with a quick-and-dirty take on a given place’s culture, values and economic well-being. Take a look at these school lunches around the world and you’ll find that the United States lands somewhere between mediocre and decadent:

School lunches from the United States: Fried chicken nuggets, canned peas, potatoes
School lunch from the United States: Fried chicken nuggets, canned peas, potatoes.

Lunch In America
School lunch in the United States: macaroni and cheese, oranges.What's For School Lunch?

Hot Dog Lunch In America
School lunch in the United States: hot dog with chili.Buzzfeed

School Lunches Bento
A decent school lunch in the United States: American-style Japanese bento box.

School lunches Spain
School lunch from Spain: local shrimp, gazpacho, fresh peppers.

School lunches Ukraine
School lunch from Ukraine: Mashed potatoes, sausage, borscht.Upworthy

School lunches UK
School lunch in the UK: Potato with cheese, carrots, corn.

School Lunch In Taiwan
School lunch in Taiwan: veggies, rice, pork, tofu soup.

School lunches Taiwan Rice
School lunch in Taiwan: rice, veggies, pork.

School lunches Sweden
School lunch in Sweden: potatoes, cabbage, lingonberry juice.

School lunches South Korea
School lunch from South Korea: fish soup, kimchi, fresh vegetables. Source: Upworthy

School lunches Bean Stew
School lunch from South Korea: bean stew, rice, kimchi.Flickr

School lunches Korea Pork
School lunch in South Korea: steamed cabbage, soup, pork. Source: BuzzFeed

School lunches Kim Chi
School lunch in South Korea: kimchi, rice, soup, fried pork.

School Lunches Slovakia
School lunch in Slovakia: smoked mackerel, kiwi, fresh bread.What's For School Lunch

School lunches Singapore
School lunch in Singapore: noodles, greens, pork, broccoli.

School lunches Singapore Beef
School lunch in Singapore: chicken, fried anchovies, omelette.

School lunches Philippines
School lunch in the Philippines: lechon kawali (fried pork belly), rice.BuzzFeed

School Lunches Kenya
School lunch in Kenya: maize and beans.Oprah.com

School lunches Japan
School lunch in Japan: udon, fish sauces, mandarin orange.

School lunches Japan Tofu
School lunch in Japan: tofu over rice, udon.Flickr

School lunches Japan Hot Dog
School lunch in Japan: Western-style hot dog, soup, fries, tomato. Source: BuzzFeed

School lunches Japan Eggs
School lunch in Japan: rice, chicken, egg, mixed veggies. Source: Flickr

School lunches Chicken
School lunch in Japan: pork tonkatsu, rice, udon. Source: Flickr

School lunches Spaghetti
School lunch in Japan: Western-style spaghetti, meatballs, fries, milk. Source: BuzzFeed

School lunches Greece
School lunch from Greece: baked chicken, yogurt, stuffed grape leaves.Upworthy

School lunches Arugula
School lunch from Italy: local fish, arugula, grapes. Source: Upworthy

School lunches Italy
School lunch in Italy: pasta primavera. Source: Oprah.com

School lunches Ghana
School lunch in Ghana: spiced rice.What's For School Lunch

School lunches Honduras
School lunch in Honduras: porridge. Source: What's For School Lunch?

School lunch France
School lunches from France: brie, apples, steak. Source: Upworthy

School lunch Steak
School lunch in France: steak, rice veggies. Source: Flickr

School lunch Artichokes
School lunch in France: artichoke, mussels, fries. Source: Flickr

School lunch Finland
School lunch from Finland: beets, carrots, pannucakku (dessert pancake). Source: Upworthy

School lunch Estonia
School lunch in Estonia: meat, potatoes, shredded carrot. Source: What's For School Lunch

School lunch Djibouti
School lunch from Djibouti: rice and beans in curry sauce. Source: What's For School Lunch

School lunch China
School lunch from China: fish, rice, scrambled egg. Source: What's For School Lunch

School lunch Brazil
School lunch from Brazil: Pork, rice, plantains. Source: Upworthy

School lunch Alface
School lunch in Brazil: meat and veggie stew, plantain, rice, salad. Source: What's For School Lunch

School Lunches Beef
School lunch from Chile: avocado, beef, fries, rice, cabbage. Source: What's For School Lunch

At times, American meal options seem terrible -- chicken nuggets and canned peas -- but some enterprising schools and government initiatives are making an effort to bring their kids quality food with culturally-sensitive touches. Still, it's better than what kids are eating in developing countries--most are lucky to have seasoning on a bowl of plain rice.

Chris Altman
Chris Altman is a freelancing writer and artist based out of Brooklyn, NY.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.