When my kids started school a few months ago, I quickly learned the importance of the word ‘bamba’, which is local Gothenburg slang for the school cafeteria. Intially, this word cracked me up because every time one of them would mention it, I would eagerly belt out, ‘Para bailar la bamba…etc…’, which completely and utterly embarrassed them. So now I’ve decided to control my inner popstar diva self and focus my efforts on inquiring about their ‘middag’ (midday) meal.
Traditionally, ‘middag’ has been considered the main meal of the day in Sweden. Each day around noon, Swedish students eagerly rush to the ‘Bamba’ in order to see what savory dish awaits. A typical meal will include a full salad bar, main course (protein and carbohydrate), milk, fresh fuit and knäckebröd (a hard Swedish cracker made with whole grains and seeds). Special dietary needs are always catered for. Students are expected to serve themselves, while teachers monitor and assist when necessary. Then teachers and students sit together and enjoying a bountiful, healthy meal and each other’s company.
‘Bamba’ is certainly a far cry from the cafeterias I endured as child. First of all, pizza, chips, greasy hamburgers, vending machines and soda are no where to be found. This is Sweden…the land of healthy living! Secondly, Bamba provides children with another learning opportunity. Teachers modelling proper table manners while socializing and eating with the children instills in them that mealtimes are not simply about eating, but rather are also times to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Finally, this ‘middag’ meal is free to all students. This fact alone demonstrates how valuable the Swedish government thinks it is! It’s no secret that healthy, well-fed students will have better behavior and more effective learning in the classroom.
Maybe if other countries adopted a similar approach as the Swedish Bamba, then student achievement, behavior and overall health might improve? After all, you are what you eat! However, I realize that certain cultural precedents and societal values need to be in place before the vending machines are rolled out the door, along with the the pizza and greasy burgers.
Meanwhile, välkommen to the Bamba…it’s a great place to be!