15 School Lunches Around The World Including France, Finland & USA

school lunches around the world: what kids eat
tags: food, lunch, school

Would your kids eat goulash soup or mussels for lunch? What about seaweed? Here are photos of 15 actual school lunches from around the world. Let’s see how balanced the diets are.

15 School lunches around the world

After living in Thailand, the US and Canada as a child, and seeing what my children ate for lunch at school in California, I think It’s interesting to compare and contrast the variety of school lunches served to children around the world. 

In California, it was a veritable revolving door of unhealthy fast food, burritos, tacos, pizzas and enchiladas. Some schools even had onsite McDonald’s’ and taco bell: YUCK!

Now that we live in France, my kids are enjoying school lunches in their French schools. When my daughter was in preschool in France, I couldn’t believe Camembert and Brie were on the menu. I don’t think any other country in the world serves as many varieties of cheese to kids as part of their school lunch program.

On the other end of the spectrum are school lunches in lesser developed countries like Kenya, where some kids might get a bowl of Fresh avocados, which might be more nutritious than the US school lunches. 

Below are photos of actual cafeteria lunches and descriptions of 15 school lunches from around the world.

You might be interested in reading: French Preschool in France: What’s It Like?

1- France school lunch

Moules et frites lunch in France Mussels and fries

Lunch Menu pictured:

Moules et Frites: Mussels and fries, artichoke, yogurt, grapefruit, bread and a dessert. ( a popular dish in France -especially in the south of France.

From preschool through highschool, the meals served at school cafeterias (les cantines) in France usually consist of five-course meals. An appetizer, main dish, salad or vegetable, cheese or yogurt and dessert. Bread may or may not be an option depending on the meal. (Pictured above is a school lunch from a high school)

If you’re not from France, you might be surprised to learn that the cafeteria meals in French schools are normal meals a French family might serve at home. French fries are also a popular food item in France but is not served more than once or twice a week as part of a school lunch.  

2- School Lunches In The United States

school lunces around the world/ US school Lunch: enchiladas, rice and beans

Photo Source:

School Lunch Menu pictured:

Enchiladas with beans, rice, fresh strawberries and milk.

Mexican inspired meals are pretty typical at schools in the United States, especially in California.

The classic milk carton. Unfortunately, the variety served at the schools my children went to in the U.S. was usually a rotating menu of burgers, burritos, and tacos. Some middle schools and high schools in California even served  McDonald’s.  

3- U.K. school lunch

school lunces around the world/UK, childrens school lunch

photo source

Lunch Menu pictured:

hamburger and grated carrots

School lunches in the UK and the US are probably neck and neck in terms of nutritional value. 

4- Japan:

school lunces around the world/ Japan: childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Pre-school Lunch menu pictured:

Rice wtih konbu (a sweet seaweed), nikujaga (potatoes and beef with veggies stewed in sweet soy sauce), omelets, sausage, potato puff, and apple.

Source: Jevinj

This is a school Lunch at a pre-school in Japan where the kids range in age from 1-6yrs old. This pictures one of the “teachers” lunches, which is the same as the kids’ meals except with smaller portions.

I love seaweed on rice, so this looks good to me. Especially Konbu in onigiri.

5- China school lunch

School lunches around the world; Chinaphoto source

Lunch Menu pictured:

Tofu, rice and vegetables.

Tofu would never be served in a school in the U.S.

6- Brazil School LUnch:

school lunces around the world/ Brasil: Childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Lunch Menu pictured:

Contents: Rice, Beans, Bread, Meat with vegetables, banana and salad.

This looks like it could be a home-cooked meal.

7- Taiwan Elementary School Lunch:

school lunces around the world/Taiwan: childrens school lunch

Photo Source

Lunch Menu pictured:

On the left: mushroom and minced pork, in the middle: Chinese chives stir fry with tempura, on the right: eggplant (probably stirfry), soup with radish and pork, and steamed white rice.

8- Ghana elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/Ghana: childrens school lunch

photo source

School Lunch Menu pictured:

This ooks like it could be rice with some kind of protein sauce.

This doesn’t look like much compared to what eastern kids eat, but I’m sure it’s nutritious, although lacking in vegetables. 

9- Thailand School Lunch

school lunces around the world/Thailand: childrens school lunch

photo source

Lunch Menu:

Sautéed chicken over rice.

I am sure whatever this is, it is probably pretty tasty.

10- Czech Republic elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/Czech: childrens school lunch

Photo source

Lunch Menu:

Lunch usually consists of soup and a main course. Usually, there is a salad or some sort of fruit along with something sweet for dessert. There is always tea and water with sweet syrup on tap and cacao if sweet buns are for lunch.

Most of the kids eat at the school canteen (cafeteria). It’s convenient and cheaper for many parents.

11 – Sudan school lunch

school lunces around the world/sudan: childrens school lunch

photo source – udith Kaine

I’m not sure what this is? Maybe it’s rice or corn paste?

12- Kenya Pre-school lunch

school lunces around the world/Kenya childrens school lunch

Photo source

This meal of avocados may look measly but it is very nutritious. The fats from the avocado are invaluable, especially in a country where malnutrition is so widespread.

13- India: elementary school lunch

school lunces around the world/India, childrens school lunch

Photo source =newshopper.sulekha site no longer exists

Lunch Menu pictured:

This is probably a rice and curry dish.

It’s not uncommon for kids in India to eat on the ground outside. And yes, kids in India eat with their hands.

UPDATE**Harleena, one of my readers, pointed something out to me. 

“This is the scene in most of the village schools only, where kids eat with their hands, either because there lack of education or they can’t afford. The ones in the cities are pretty different and most kids carry their own tiffin and there’s a lot of options to choose from, which are again healthy and nutritious. Some schools have a proper canteen as it’s an easier option for parents – so there’a a lot of different kinds.”


14- Honduras School lunch

school lunces around the world/Honduras, childrens school lunch

photo source

Lunch Menu Pictured:

Arroz Con Leche (Rice with milk).

You can eat it cold or hot, and it is often seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla.

15- Finland School Lunch

FINLAND: Finnish school lunch

Lunch Menu Pictured:

Potatoes and sausage bites with gravy, rice & corn tuna salad, Iceberg lettuce with tangerines and dressing. Served with a slice of bread, butter and skim or low fat milk. 

Since 1948, children in preschool through high school receive free lunch every day. 

Some Kids Go Hungry At Lunch

school lunces around the world/hungry-kids

It’s a proven fact that children can’t concentrate in class, especially in the afternoon, on an empty stomach.  Unfortunately, some children go without lunch because their parents can’t afford to buy or prepare lunch for their children.

This doesn’t just happen in places like Uganda or other third world countries. It’s happening in first world countries, including poor sections of first world countries like the U.S.

Are You Interested In Learning More about school lunches around the world?

What's for Lunch?

What's For Lunch Andrea shows the variety and inequality of typical school lunches from thirteen countries around the world, including Japan, Kenya, Russia, United States and Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Afghanistan.

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12/03/2022 04:45 am GMT
Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.


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