Along with society
Applying Japan’s School Lunch Program to Improve Nutrition in Children
The Ajinomoto Group strives to solve nutritional issues in children in countries around the world. One such activity takes place in Vietnam. In 2012, AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD., together with the Vietnamese central government, launched the School Meal Project, which incorporates concepts from the Japanese school lunch system.
Nutritional Challenges for Children in Vietnam
In Vietnam, many children—particularly children in rural areas—experience stunted growth or are underweight. At the same time, we are seeing a growing number of children in urban areas who are obese or overweight. Elementary school lunch menus in Vietnam are determined based on teacher and kitchen staff experience at each school. There is no school lunch law and there are no dietitians at schools. Therefore, providing children with school lunches conducive to healthy development has not been possible. To solve this issue, AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD. incorporated concepts of the Japanese school lunch system, a familiar experience to all Japanese people.
School Meal Project of AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD.
In 2012, AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD., together with local government agencies, launched the project first in Ho Chi Minh City.
The project began with developing recipe books and nutrition education materials for schools, after which a model kitchen was installed in one school to comprehensively improve school lunch operations and hygiene management. The model kitchen prepared and served school lunches with the menu options proposed by AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD. The project invited educators from all over Vietnam to observe operations in hope of increasing the number of schools adopting the model kitchen over time.
AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD. also developed software for elementary schools to create nutritionally balanced meal plans, available for download from the project’s website. The software allows schools to input ingredients, outputting menu options and nutritional information. With this software, kitchen staff serve nutritionally balanced meals to children without the need for advanced knowledge of nutrition. As of fiscal 2017, the project, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Health, and other central government agencies, has been adopted in 2,910 schools, with a second model kitchen built in May 2018.
As of March 2023, school meal project activities have expanded across 62 municipalities and 4,262 elementary schools.
Training Nutritionists in Fundamental Solutions
One of the reasons for the dual issues of undernourishment and obesity among children in Vietnam is a lack of correct knowledge and experience related to nutrition.
In 2011, the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and AJINOMOTO VIETNAM CO., LTD. launched the Vietnam Nutrition-system Establishment Project. The aim of this project was to train and leverage human resources capable of communicating correct nutritional information.
As a result, in 2012, the Ministry of Education and Training approved a four-year nutrition degree. In 2013, Hanoi Medical University introduced a degree program in nutrition. In 2017, Vietnam welcomed its first 43 nutritionists.
This project for a nutrition system in Vietnam was transferred to the management of the Ajinomoto Foundation in April 2017. And the project is still underway today, aiming to establish systems to spread correct nutritional knowledge.