Ah yes, the school lunch: the warm, delicious smell of pizza or tacos drifting down the hallway, the thought of sipping chocolate milk out of a little carton – our stomachs are growling just thinking about it! School lunch time is about more than just the food we eat each day, it's also about the conversations we have with our friends, a chance to unwind and refocus our minds, and sharing a smile or laugh with the workers preparing and serving our lunches. We can always rely on our school nutrition professionals to keep our bellies full, and our minds and bodies nourished.
The first Friday in May is School Lunch Hero Day, a day held annually to honor each person responsible for providing lunches and food to millions of students, teachers, administrators, and school staff across America. Each person responsible for making sure good food is handed out to students is a hero, and this day is specifically designed to show them some extra love.
There are lots of ways we can celebrate these incredible school nutrition professionals, like making a banner or drawing some thank-you cards, singing a song, performing a skit, making them a school lunch, or simply giving them a high five, a smile, and a "thank you."
Although School Lunch Hero Day is a national celebration in the United States, students all over the world enjoy a wide variety of school lunch options and traditions.
- Japan: Students in Japan get full tummies and social skills at mealtimes by cooking, serving, eating, and even cleaning up after themselves.
- Brazil: In Brazil, food is a constitutional right. Thirty percent of school lunch food ingredients are locally sourced and meals consist of fresh, local foods like frittatas laded with veggies, paired with hearty rice and beans, and a piece of fruit.
- France: Kids in France have four-course lunches beginning with a salad, followed by meat with veggies, some cheese and bread, and a dessert. They are also encouraged to slow down and enjoy their meals leisurely.
- Finland: Hot cafeteria meals come in a variety of options, but a common tradition is a dish called hernekeitto, which is a pea soup paired with jam-covered pancakes for dessert.
School lunches are different all over the world, but even here in the U.S. they've changed over time. Hot lunches began in 1913 when the Women's Educational and Industrial Union provided hot lunch items like beef and barley soup, celery and nut salad, creamed eggs, orange marmalade or jam sandwiches, and more to around 5,500 students each day. Those may not be the lunches we dream about and enjoy now, but serving hot lunches in schools was a big step that brought us to where we are today.
How will you celebrate School Lunch Hero Day? Next time you're on your way to the cafeteria, take a minute to think about all of the care and preparation that went into your favorite school lunch, and the heroes behind those meals.
Not all heroes wear capes, some wear hairnets!