School Lunch

Back to school. Primary school children having school lunch at school cafeteria
NoSystem images/E+/Getty Images

13 Photos Of School Lunches From All Around The World

These go way beyond pb&j.

Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Growing up, the best part of the week was pizza Friday, the one day a week when I was allowed to buy lunch. School lunch in the United States seems to have evolved beyond the crustless rectangles of cheesy pizza and slippery green beans I weirdly so enjoyed, but it’s always fun to see what school lunches look like around the world. In Italy, school children are accustomed to penne pasta dishes and fresh tomato salads at lunchtime (lucky Italians). In Thailand, lunch is fresh fish and rice with veggies. In Germany, a combination of meat and potatoes or rice is the norm. Russians students are drinking tea (godspeed to the parents of caffeinated children).

Whether your child brown bags it (or more realistically brings lunch in a lunchbox) or they buy it at school, it’s interesting to take a glimpse at what kids around the world eat for lunch. And who knows, maybe you’ll get some international inspiration to call on the next time you’re not sure what to pack for your kids’ lunch. Here’s what cafeteria food looks like around the world.

An Example Of A Typical American School Lunch

The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

There’s been a push to make American cafeteria food more nutrient dense with the No Kids Hungry Act, while school lunch choices vary drastically by district.

Next, let's have a look other countries' school lunches.

Italy

Shutterstock

School lunch in Italy may consist of spaghetti or another pasta with tomato sauce, plus a green salad and plenty of fresh fruit.

France

French public school students are given a hearty protein like steak, potatoes, salad, and a piece of fresh fruit.

Costa Rica

Costa Rican public school cuisine consists of staples like rice and beans, along with mixed vegetables, breaded fish or chicken, and a salad on the side.

Thailand

Thai students typically feast on fresh local fish and curry packed with vegetables over a bowl of rice.

Japan

Schools in Japan provide their students with traditional soups or stews, stir-fried vegetables, and a side of rice.

South Korea

A typical Korean school lunch consists of soup, rice, kimchi, and steamed vegetables.

Sweden

Swedish school kids often eat things like roasted chicken with rice and a salad with fresh vegetables.

China

Lunch in China will usually consist of rice, a protein like fish or chicken, maybe a soup, and tons of fresh or pickled veggies.

India

Shutterstock

India is known for their free school lunch program that feeds as many as 120 million students a day. Here students eat savory yellow rice.

Brazil

Shutterstock

Lunch in Brazil is typically a filling mix of rice, beans, and maybe a meat protein.

Russia

Vladimir Smirnov/TASS/Getty Images

Russian students will usually have a full lunch at school that consists of porridge, meat, and bread. Notably, they drink tea!

Germany

Getty

German school lunches usually consist of a protein like wurst or chicken, plus a carb like potatoes or rice, with plenty of veggies or fresh fruit on the side.