Success of Japanese School Lunch Program Could Teach U.S. Schools a Lesson

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A Washington Post report reveals the unique cultural priorities of Japan produce healthy children, a very different reality than American schools. The Omidi brothers and their non-profit The Children’s Obesity Fund recommend a closer look at the Japanese system, believing the US can learn a lot.

“If we in the United States could incorporate aspects of the Japanese school lunch model, we could certainly see healthier children with less preventable medical conditions,” says Dr. Michael Omidi, co-founder of the Children’s Obesity Fund. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, the Japanese school lunch program not only provides fresh, healthy meals to its students on a daily basis, the students are so impressed by their meals that parents often call the school asking for recipes. While the United States’ public school lunch programs are in a state of flux, Japan has been using the same successful model for more than 40 years.

Japan has the lowest childhood obesity rate in the world. The average Japanese child is expected to have a lifespan of more than 80 years. At school, Japanese children are served a wide variety of foods, all freshly prepared on the premises. Their meals are supplemented by hearty portions of vegetables, tofu and rice, but the menu also includes comforting items in moderation, like pork belly and fried chicken. The school lunch standard has proven such a success that cookbooks with school lunch recipes have been issued, and government officials have stated that waste has been cut to five percent. So, why isn’t the school lunch model being used in the U.S.?

“We have to change our thinking when it comes to food. If we can teach our children that food is meant to fuel our bodies and facilitate health, the task of eliminating childhood obesity will be much easier,” says Dr. Michael Omidi. A significant factor is that Japan has wholly different cultural priorities and standards for what is acceptable behavior in children. In the United States, lunch programs focus heavily on what children want to eat, while Japan does not suffer picky eaters. Japanese children are raised to accept the food they are given without complaint. If a child feels he or she cannot eat what is offered, schools nutritionists counsel the children about disordered eating. There is no attempt to cater to the individual tastes and there are no alternative options from vending machines.

Co-founded by Julian Omidi and Michael Omidi, M.D., the Children’s Obesity Fund (http://www.childrensobesityfund.org) hopes to help reverse the trend of rising obesity rates in America. The goal of the non-profit charity is to help people fully understand the obesity issue and its dire impacts on individuals and society as a whole -- and to use that knowledge to encourage children to grow up strong and healthy. Children’s Obesity Fund partners with other organizations to educate and support parents, educators and others so that we can all work together to raise healthy, active, social, and happy children. While the organization does not accept donations, it does encourage direct contributions of money and talents to the associations featured on our website. Children’s Obesity Fund is on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-Obesity-Fund/264244577009536?fref=ts and can also be found on Google+, Twitter and Pinterest.

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