Ella – August 21, 2017

I, like many Americans, grew up with a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the school lunch my mom sent with me each day.

I tend to change it up a bit for my own children, though they do still get the occasional and beloved PB&J. There is no shortage of articles and posts on Pinterest about how to make the perfect school lunch, which got me wondering what goes into schoolchildren’s lunches in Denmark, my family’s country of origin.

According to the Journal of Nutritional Science, most Danish children in primary school bring a packed lunch from home. The typical school lunch, according to the journal, is an open-faced sandwich on rye bread with meat products supplemented with fruits or vegetables. Most children drink milk or water. I have found that the open-faced sandwich is a signature of Denmark and referred to as Smorrebrod. The varieties are endless.

This sounds very similar to what many children here eat, except that rye bread is called Rugbrod in Denmark. Most American children get white or wheat bread, and we fold the sandwich in half or put the contents between two slices of bread. I understand that liver spread on rye is a particular favorite in Denmark. My own children will enjoy an occasional liverwurst sandwich, which I had never associated with Denmark.

The classic PB&J sandwich is still a popular lunch item for children returning to school.

The classic PB&J sandwich is still a popular lunch item for children returning to school. But residents of The Danish Home enjoy a lunchtime choice of two hot entrees, a balance of veggies and starches, tasty soup, and dessert.

Apparently, variety and choices aren’t as important in Danish school lunches. It isn’t unusual for a child to have the same thing every day, just like our PB&Js here. Now, there’s an idea from my family’s country of origin that I can get behind!

I must say, however, that meal choices at The Danish Home are anything but limited or unvaried. While Smorrebrod and Rugbrod are on the menu, especially on special occasions, there is always a tasty soup, choice of two hot entrees, a balance of veggies and starches and, best of all, dessert for lunch at The Danish Home. These yummy choices are created by The Danish Home’s own chef, too. That sure beats a boring old sandwich made by mom (however much love she puts into it) any day of the week!

On the other hand, with Pinterest’s plethora of ideas, some parents can get carried away making overly creative lunches or trying to be all organic and healthy. I have learned not to swing too far on the healthy choices, or my children won’t eat half of what is put into their lunch. Bringing home, or throwing away, what you don’t want to eat is a concern not just here, but also in Denmark.

I am intrigued by an expanding concept of selling surplus foods in grocery stores that is doing well in Denmark. Wefood is one such market, and recently a second store was opened in Copenhagen. The stores are run by DanChurchAid, which is rooted in the Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church. Wefood sells food other grocery stores won’t sell due to past “before dates,” or irregularly labeled items, but are all still safe to eat.

While store offerings vary from day to day, based on what is donated, Wefood sells products at a discount of 30 to 50 percent of market prices. In addition to reducing food waste in Denmark, the stores raise money for organizations to combat famine in developing nations. As over a third of all food produced in the world ends up in the trash, and nearly 800 million people all over the world go to bed hungry, Wefood is doing much more than saving shoppers money. This sheds new meaning on the phrase popularized in WWI, “Waste Not, Want Not.”

The Danes are embracing the concept of "Waste Not, Want Not" by opening surplus grocery stores.

The Danes are embracing the concept of “Waste Not, Want Not” by opening surplus grocery stores, such as Wefood.

I am really taken with this concept and will be watching to see how it progresses. But, in the meantime, I will stress less about forcing variety into my children’s school lunches and focus more of my energy on cutting back food waste.