Japan manages to strike that tricky balance between keeping its children fed and maintaining a low obesity rate, and its largely thanks to its school lunches.
It might seem like a small world, but there are parts of it that are relatively close together trying to deal with polar opposite problems. Feeding our children, fox example. In developing countries, the issue is malnutrition. Not having enough food to go around and children suffering because of it. In more developed countries, some governments are trying to tackle the exact opposite. Childhood obesity.
So why is it so difficult for countries that can to find that perfect middle ground, or at least come close to it? The rest of the world should probably be paying closer attention to Japan for tips on how to do so. A recent report by UNICEF revealed that Japan tops the charts with the lowest rates of malnourished children in the world, and also has the lowest rate of childhood obesity in the 41 developed countries included, reports Channel News Asia.
There are a number of well-established reasons Japan manages to strike this tricky balance, but the main reason is its school lunch program. In many developed countries, children enter a cafeteria-style setting and, for the most part, eat whatever they like. They can even bring food from home if they so desire, giving them an even wider choice of potentially unhealthy food.
That's not the case in Japan. There's one option, normally between 600 and 700 calories. Due to vegetarianism not being as widespread in Japan as it is elsewhere, and most of the country holding the same religious belief, there isn't even a need to offer those sorts of alternatives. Children aren't allowed to bring packed lunches, and even though the lunches aren't free, the program is heavily subsidized.
The health benefits of the Japanese school lunch, which is planned by a nutritionist, don't end at lunchtime either. Students are taught about the breakdown of their meal each day so they understand the need for a balanced diet, and how much of things like protein and carbohydrates they need each day. It might sound regimented and perhaps even a little extreme, but it is clearly a system that works.