October 02, 2006

School Days: Lunch Service

Lunch service in elementary schools is common. There may be some elementary schools that don't provide it. At our elementary school, a fee is paid each year, and students receive lunch every school day. Some students who don't like school food or who have allergies may decide not to sign up for the lunch service. They would have to bring their own lunch (obentou) from home. That is very rare, though.

The food is prepared in the school kitchen. It is then taken on a cart to the classrooms by students. Kitchen workers take the food to first graders' rooms. First graders serve the food once it is set up.

I observed lunch service on the day of the class observation. Desks were kept in groups of four or five after the science class. Lunch mats were placed on top of the desks. The lunch servers put on their white serving uniforms. This was the table group for the servers. See the white bags on top of the desks? The uniforms were in them.

A long, low table was moved to the front of the room. The food, trays, and dishes were taken from the cart and arranged on it.

Students went to the hall to wash their hands. The teacher was washing her hands with them in this picture.

Here is a sink in the hall opposite the classroom. There is a bar of soap in the net hanging from the faucet.

Students lined up by table group. They got a tray and a spoon. On other days there may be forks or chopsticks. As other students waited to line up, they read or some even played cards. The teacher was at her desk stamping students' work and recording it in her book.

This was the day's lunch. The rice and vegetable dish was called bibimba. It is a Korean dish. There was also a bowl of soap with seaweed and vegetables in it, a fried potato, and a cup of plain yogurt. When yogurt is served, they don't have their usual bottle of milk.

When everyone was served and was sitting down, the teacher stood at the front of the class with two of the servers. Everyone sat up straight, put their hands together in prayer position, bowed, and said, "Itadakimasu!" or "Thank you farmers!" That's how Papa translated it to me years ago.

I didn't stay to watch them eat. It smelled so good it made me hungry. On my way out of the building, I passed the kitchen and saw this. It is the display of the day's lunch. They sometimes put it in the entrance of the school or leave it here for the children to see. Each month a menu is taken home. That helps prevent dinner duplication. Sometimes I don't pay attention to the menu and my kids get fish twice in one day. They don't appreciate that!

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