EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on Food & Wine. Since its publication, sweetgreen released the following statement:
In school cafeterias in Italy, children enjoy local fish on a bed of arugula, caprese salad, red grapes and fresh bread. In Korea, lunch includes fish soup, tofu, steamed rice and bell peppers. In the US, though, school cafeterias are serving up frozen chicken nuggets, processed fruit preserved in syrup and cookies. Those are some of the findings illustrated in a recent photo series compiled by sweetgreen, an East Coast salad restaurant chain.
According to the company, whose sweetgreens in School program teaches students about nutrition, fitness and sustainable eating habits, 32 million schoolchildren nationwide eat school cafeteria lunch every day and take in more than half their calories at school. That makes the differences in school lunch around the world even more noteworthy. With childhood obesity rates on the rise and recent science establishing a strong link between nutrition and cognitive function, lunchrooms have become the next front in the fight for healthier eating even as loopholes in school lunch regulations still define things like French fries and pizza as vegetables. With those loopholes in mind, here’s a look at what’s on school menus elsewhere.
Pea soup, beet salad, carrot salad, bread and pannakkau (dessert pancake) with fresh berries
Baked chicken over orzo, stuffed grape leaves, tomato and cucumber salad, fresh oranges, and greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds
Local fish on a bed of arugula, pasta with tomato sauce, caprese salad, baguette and some grapes
Mashed potatoes with sausage, borscht, cabbage and syrniki (a dessert pancake)
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