In Italy, school children are accustomed to penne pastas dishes and fresh tomato salads at lunchtime. In Finland, some eat crêpes topped with fresh fruit and a beet salad for their midday meal. In Spain, a combination of seafood paella and grilled vegetables is the norm. In the United States, however, American kids grow up on things like instant mashed potatoes, chicken nuggets, and frozen peas. The difference in nutritional value and fresher options is glaringly obvious, especially when you see photos of school lunches from around the world side by side with those of American schools. It’s been a challenge to standardize healthy meals in American public schools and if a divisive bill recently introduced in Congress, H.R. 610, gets passed, then the funding that is used for school meal plans could suffer even more than it does now.
When President Barack Obama was in office, his administration, along with first lady Michelle Obama, made a lot of progress to improve school lunches in the United States. In 2010, for example, Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which required schools to meet a certain nutritional standards — such as adding more fresh fruits and vegetables — in order to receive more federal funding. As The Huffington Post pointed out, by 2013, every New York City public elementary school was “equipped with a fresh salad bar in their cafeterias.”
American school lunches were already struggling to keep up with the rest of the world and H.R. 610 would virtually set back decades of progress. These photos will visually prove that the U.S. government has a lot of competition and plenty of reason to improve on — rather than take away from — school lunches in 2017.