The important role of nutrition for school-age children

Meals which provide appropriate nutrition requirements along with increased physical activities play an important role for pupils in terms of health, stature development, physical strength, and intelligence.


Pupils have nutrition-balanced and appropriate school meals, which not only support them with improving heath statement, reducing the risk of nutritional disorders such as  malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight, obesity, and non-communicable diseases but also construct the nutrition habit.


However, many primary boarding schools in Vietnam still encounter various difficulties in organizing nutritional lunches due to the limitation in nutrition knowledge and experience in building nutritional menus as well.


The video filmed at Trung Trac Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City, the first school in Vietnam to implement AVN’s School Meal Project

A Japan model for improving school-based nutrition

In the late 1940s, when Japan faced a similar situation with child nutrition, the government implemented its own school lunch program to address it. Then, in the 1980s, the issue shifted to childhood obesity and new nutritional guidelines were drafted. Today, Japan is the only country in the world where obesity rates are actually falling, and life expectancy is the longest in the world and rising.

In 2012, Ajinomoto Vietnam Co., Ltd. (AVN) launched a project to bring ideas adapted from Japan’s lunch program to primary boarding schools across Vietnam, with the aim of contributing to the healthy development of children nationwide. Working closely with Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training and National Institute of Nutrition, AVN’s School Meal Project has developed menu books and educational materials about food and nutrition, introduced software that assists in planning menus, and set up model school kitchens to show visitors how to prepare healthy, nutritionally balanced meals and operate kitchens hygienically, safely and efficiently. By November 2022, the School Meal Project had been deployed in 62 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces and cities, and 4,262 school had registered for the project and applied for the menu-planning software.


The School Meal Project software


Nutrition-balanced school meal

Tools to help communities address local needs

The School Meal Project software provides a menu bank of 120 menus with over 360 non-repeatable lunch dishes. These menus satisfy the nutritional standards for primary school aged children and are tailored to local tastes in each of the country’s three main regions: north, central and south. This is an effective tool to help schools standardize boarding school menus, providing delicious and nutrition-balanced lunches for pupils.
Before lunchtime, pupils are introduced to the lunch menu and educated about the nutritional information and benefits of each kind of food included, via the “Three Minutes to Change Awareness” program. In addition to support from Ajinomoto Vietnam Co., Ltd., the Embassy of Japan in Vietnam, the Japanese Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as authorities and parents all provided valuable financial support of the model kitchens.


Food nutrition education “Three Minutes to Change Awareness” program



Model kitchen