As a parent, you might wonder what your children are eating for lunch at a Thailand government school. We’ve always had our daughter in a private school, but there too – we wondered, what Thai food is she eating on a daily basis? Some days she would come home happy with the selection the school had on offer for lunch, and other times – not at all happy.
Now that I teach at a Thailand government school, I can give you the inside scoop because most days I’m eating the same thing as the students! Let’s have a look.
VIDEO – Students getting their Thai food lunch at a Thailand government school.
Every day around 11:00 am. the nannies (as they call them) here at our government primary-level school bring huge pots of food for the kids in the English Program to eat for lunch. They set them right outside the door of our homeroom and the kids start eating around 11:20 am. The food stays hot, so that’s never a problem.
The Usual Format for a Thai Government School Lunch
- soup with vegetables and meat – usually pork, but sometimes beef or chicken
- another side of something, usually vegetables or a main mean dish if one wasn’t already in the first part
- a piece of fruit, sometimes two
The rice is always white rice, but it almost has some color to it in this video because maybe some of it was burnt? Not sure. It tastes just like white rice though. It never changes. Well, not in three months it hasn’t anyway.
Today we had Kow Men Gai. That’s boiled chicken with a great-tasting ginger sauce over rice. This is a very common Thai food, and here in our province for some reason, this and chicken noodle soup seems to be the preferred meal for anyone in the city. We have more people selling these two Thai food meals than anything else. It isn’t even close. There are probably 100 vendors selling the same thing in our small city. Some of it is VERY good, on-par with some of the best I’ve ever had when we were living in Krabi, Thailand in the south.
On the side today we had what I think are Thai radishes. My wife (Joy) will correct me here. I am not 100% sure they are radishes. They are light green, almost clear and see-through vegetables you can see in the big soup pot in the video. With that was ground pork. The broth is light, generally little taste, just flavored with a small amount of salt.
For the fruit today we had guava. It’s name in Thai is pronounced farang. But, foreigners are also pronounced with the same sounding word – farang, so there is always the inevitable joke about “Oh, he doesn’t like farang!” when a kid opts out of it for lunch.
You can see in the video, there are 3-4 people always choosing the food for the kids who come up with their plates. The nanny for our program always helps. She makes just $200 per month and works very hard all day in the heat. She gets free food that she often takes home to her family. At least she gets this one little perk, right?
The others scooping the food onto the children’s plates are teachers in our program. I don’t know if they’re OK with being seen for the video, so I didn’t show their faces. Everyone is a bit paranoid here when I get started shooting video because my other YouTube channel has 50+ million views and Thais think I am trying to show them in a bad light, or maybe are just shy about being seen too much.
It probably seems like too little food is being handed out for lunch, but really so few kids come up for more that this is the best way with the least waste. Today not even one kid came up for more rice or main meal, but a couple of kids did come to grab slices of guava fruit because it was ripe and was nice and sweet today.
We have about 120 English learners in our English program at this medium-sized school of 1,500 kids. Whoever is cooking this daily has an excellent idea of how much it takes to feed all these kids and still have something left over for the teachers (me and another guy) to eat.
When I first started teaching and I saw how little each kid was getting on the plate, I was horrified. It was nowhere near enough food! Then I heard from a Thai teacher that the kids can come back up and get more anytime they want. OK, that’s fine then, I thought.
Then I wondered, why kids are only eating this tiny amount of food? Don’t they like Thai food? They’re Thai for god’s sake.
I went into the classroom where most of them eat. They can eat anywhere on the school campus if they just tote their plate there. Most just relax inside the air conditioned classroom because it’s getting quite warm now in March as the peak of the hot season arrives in Thailand.
Kids were mostly eating what they had, but there were a lot of them who just ate a few bites and went and through the rest away in the waste bucket. Huh? That was it?
So I mentioned it to my colleague. He said most kids are just eating a little bit and then they go downstairs and buy junk food snacks, soda, fried chicken, literally selecting from dozens of possibilities, and they fill up on that.
It’s sad but true. The food at this school is not bad. It certainly isn’t like eating at a restaurant, but it’s palatable enough to eat and be glad you had something to put in your stomach. For teachers it’s free, so to save a couple of dollars a week, we mostly eat at school for free. At times the food isn’t what we want, or on some days there isn’t any left for us, so we go off-campus and buy beef-noodle or chicken-noodle soup for 25 Thai baht a bowl (90 cents USD).
The selection of food downstairs for the kids is bewildering. I’ll have to take some photos and video of the kids eating down there. They’re in heaven eating snack food – some of the worst snacks I’ve ever seen – filled with sugar and/or fat, salt, junk that cannot even be named (chicken parts?).
So, we have about 30 students in each class. That means about once every 12 days we have someone celebrating a birthday. That means cupcakes and usually soda or some other snack for all the kids in the class. That’s 30 times per year! Of course, all the foreign teachers much get their photo taken with the birthday kid so the parents can see that we also took part in the snack. I know it’s wrong, but I usually toss mine in the trash in the teacher’s restroom!
There is only one boy out of 120 whose parents come in every day to bring him his lunch. This boy has diabetes or is prone to it or something and they want to make sure he eats something decent. It’s great to see it.
Our daughter goes to this same school. She is eating the same lunch. I haven’t watched her eat yet, but I will before the end of the year because I’m curious how much of the meal she’ll eat and how much junk she buys at the vendors. I do know that she doesn’t like sweets much. We didn’t give her any taste of soda until she was 8 yrs old. Here, Thais at the playground give their 3 year olds bottles of heavily sugared (and caffeinated) iced-tea!
Does this happen everywhere these days? Is this the trajectory of our children’s health and are we powerless to change it?
No, of course not. We can change it. First, we need to see what our kids are eating at school. This is pretty much the norm across Thailand for lunches at government schools, so take it as one data point. You should probably go visit your kid at lunchtime and see what the real situation is. Our children’s health is at stake and the government agencies in ANY country are probably not giving this as much attention as they need to.
The amount of sugar these kids are consuming on a daily/weekly basis is outrageous, to be honest.
Post written by and ©2021 Vern Lovic. Joy is busy these days raising our very young daughter. Hopefully, she will make an appearance every now and then! 😛 I did get her and our older daughter in a short video clip about the mango cheesecake they made the other day. Will get that post up within a day or so.