In Anne Allison’s essay Japanese Mothers and Obentos she argues that making obentos is a manipulation of the Ideological State Apparatus. In Japanese culture, the I. S. A. promotes women staying in the home and managing the children’s school affairs while the husband goes to work. So, in essence, she has more time to devote to these extravagant lunches. American lunches don’t follow the same pattern because the traditional family structure that is more prevalent in Japan just isn’t the norm in America.
The food culture, and the way our society is shaped is completely different.
The I. S. A. in America promotes eating healthy as a way to prevent obesity, but lacks the discipline aspect that the Japanese I. S. A. instills through the obentos. In Japan all of the mothers pack an obento for their children to take to school, but a lot of children in America come from single parent homes where the mother works and doesn’t have the time to pack lunches.
In traditional families, if the child does have a packed lunch it’s usually healthy- a sandwich, fruit and a drink. But most children eat the lunch the school provides.
The government has guidelines for the nutritional value and price of the lunches, but these American schools, unlike their Japanese counterparts, also have vending machines and school stores that offer unhealthy snacks like candy, chips, and soda. Kids consume about 30%- 50% of their calories while at school (Hellmich) so that’s probably part of the reason why there is a childhood obesity epidemic in America. This isn’t as much of a concern in Japan whose obesity rates have only increased . 1% per year from 1976 to 2000. Fisher)
The U. S. increase was twice as rapid. In America people are bombarded by an I. S. A. that encourages us to be consumers and indulge and yet be thin and healthy. Less effort is put into the preparation of food than the taste. When it comes to food, taste is more important than how it looks. On TV or in magazines there are images of restaurants that hype the unhealthiest, greasy looking, processed food but encourages us to eat it because it tastes good. Most kinds of American cuisine follow suit, espescially school lunches.
Even though the government has made certain restrictions on the preparation and types of food that is served, and has promoted campaigns like the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight child obesity, children eat the way they are trained to eat by their environment. Their actions follow the I. S. A . of doing what makes you feel good as an individual. There is no pressure from other parents to provide your child with a healthy lunch. There is no peer pressure in elementary school to eat healthy and stay thin.
There are more advertisements of McDonalds, which appeal to kids with Ronald McDonald the clown and the promise of a toy with a happy meal, than of healthier spots that endorse being thin. It just shows that consumers are indulgent in their lifestyle when it comes to eating, and this is the message kids receive when they choose the food they eat at school. In Japan, however, the food is created not to just taste good but to be stylized in a design that is visually attractive and retains a natural look and flavor.
As Allison writes, “Food is fresh….. leaving much of it either raw or only minimally cooked. (224) Kids learn through the Japanese I. S. A. that eating Japanese food is “national identity: food being appropriated as a sign of the culture” (Allison, 225) Continuing these traditions, along with thinking and acting like others instead of focusing on your own personal preferences and choices, takes a lot of discipline. As in the case with the obentos, the mother is disciplined by the pressure of the other parents and the school to provide her child with an appropriate lunch, and the kid experiences peer pressure to eat the lunch in its entirety.
And since most Japanese cuisine is based on healthy food such as rice, fruits and vegetables, it indoctrinates these people into eating healthy as part of their identity . Japanese and American I. S. A. ’s share a common theme in that they promote eating healthy as a youth. But the focus in Japan is on being disciplined with food- with the preparation and the consumption . Food is a cultural identity marker, one that unites them as a people. And in their culture they are taught to think and act in accordance with what is wanted within that group than for rational self-interest.
Kids are trained to eat healthy from a young age, because there really isn’t any other choice. In America, the goal is to be healthy and thin- but the message is more centered on choices and being indulgent with your choices. Eating food is looked at as a way to enjoy yourself and feed hunger. The visual aspect and nutritional value of the food isn’t as important as to how edible it is. And with so much time spent promoting indulgence in their environment, kids learn unhealthy eating habits.
Cite this Healthy Eating in School
Healthy Eating in School. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/healthy-eating-in-school/