This Mint article on school lunches in Japan is rather alarming in its enthusiasm for the nanny state. It also gushes about the Japanese self-sufficiency movement, which actually dooms Japanese farmers to small farms and eats up money in food subsidies:
Chisan, chishou, the local term for ‘produce local, consume local’, is a major campaign in Japan and it is reflected in the school menu as well. The cabinet office directive says that ingredients for the meals have to be sourced from places no more than 30km away.
And also about government campaigns which set out what people should eat:
So, on 15 July 2005, a new law on syokuiku came into force. It lays down the basic philosophy for “dietary education” to eradicate all these problems at the root. Says Miho Kawano, assistant counsellor at the cabinet office on dietary education promotion department: “Syokuiku is based on the theory that every individual needs to acquire knowledge about how to choose food, be aware of healthy diet and food safety.” What is impressive is the scale and precision with which the movement has been launched all over the country and how every school, prefecture, municipal office, corporate, NGO and literally every citizen on the street has been drawn into the programme.
Which are expensive and intrusive:
According to Kawano, the programme has an annual budget of $98.31 million (Rs391.27 crore) and there are 190,000 volunteers involved. The goal is to get at least 20% more volunteers by 2010 who will spread awareness about nutrition and the link between diet and health all over Japan. And, in a brilliant masterstroke, health insurance societies, too, have been drawn into the programme. Hutami says that from April 2008, the government is planning to route special health checking and guidance facilities to every Japanese citizen through insurance societies. Successful societies will be given a reward, while unsuccessful ones will be penalized.
On a slightly less rational note, the praise given to The Shri Ram School annoys me:
Although it is not organized on military lines like the Japanese school lunches, The Shri Ram School lunch programme is constantly evolving. For instance, the menu, devised by the teachers, is circulated to parents and also vetted by dieticians.
Bah. Death to TSRS.
But the article is still very nicely written and has lots of interesting details. Do read it.