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Food & Hunger

Did your school lunch measure up?

Photo: Sweetgreen

When you hear the words, “cafeteria food” what do you think of? Do they look anything like the ones above?

If so, well then sign me up for that food service because the meals I’m about to show you look absolutely delicious. This US restaurant chain, Sweetgreen, put out this photo essay as a way to show where the US measures up in school lunches compared to countries around the world.

Let me tell you, those chicken nuggets I knew and loved growing up aren’t looking so good anymore. Sweetgreen is a chain of restaurants that creates its meals from locally sourced and organic ingredients. They are also working their way into schools, running programs that promote healthy, balanced diets, and overall active lifestyles.

Disclaimer: drooling may occur, but check out these awesome--possibly more gourmet than they should be--school lunches that are typically consumed around the world.

In Greece in looks like you can just pick a fresh orange off a tree on your way to school.


Casual chunk of brie for lunch in France...sure.


Do you see those baked plantains in Brazil?!


Okay, not a fan of beets, but I could get down with some pannukkau (dessert pancakes) in Finland.


Never have I ever seen such fresh broccoli on a lunch tray. Well done, South Korea.


Fresh fish from your local market, Italy’s doing it right.


Ukraine has Greek yogurt too. BUT they also have Greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds. I'm salivating here. 


Excuse me while I go find some gourmet shrimp in Spain.


And then of course we have….the USA. Good 'ol chicken nuggets.


So other than nostalgia and severe food envy, this whole photo essay made me think about the importance of nutrition. Which, I guess is the point, so good job Sweetgreen!

In the US alone, there are 5 billion lunches served annually in schools. For a lot of children, lunches served in school is the biggest meal they get in their day which means it can make of for a lot of their nutritional intake. That’s a whole lot of responsibility on the school’s part to make sure a child is receiving a healthy diet-and from what it looks like in this photo essay, the US is slacking.

But this also means that schools have a huge opportunity here. Yes, there are still 58 million children that aren’t in school around the world, but while we work on that number, we can still take advantage of the opportunity to help billions of children that are in school every day.

The US has a nutritional problem in terms of obesity. If we stick to the cafeteria food pictured in the image above--chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, etc.--then the obesity rate in the US, which has tripled in the past 30 years, is not going to get any better.

But across the world in developing countries, they’re having an even more serious nutritional issue, and it’s not obesity. That’s right, you guessed it, it’s hunger and malnutrition. This happens when there’s enough food in the world to feed everybody--in fact there’s 1 1/2 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is that people in extreme poverty can’t afford to eat the food and have lunches like the ones in the above photos.

The solution is more than just getting food aid to these at need populations. Nutrition and well-rounded meals like the ones above is even more important to put on the plates, or else malnutrition stats aren’t going to budge either.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. That's about one in nine people on earth.

Which brings me back to nutritious school lunches for all children. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year.

Not only does poor nutrition lead to serious health issues, but experiencing hunger can hinder a child’s development and achievement.

WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.

So let’s do something about it shall we? I mean after the amount of drool that is happening after looking at those photos, I think it’s only right we give every kid a fighting chance at such deliciousness.

Sign the petition to call on congress members to cosponsor the Food Aid Reform Act so that more people can have access to enough food to meet their daily needs.