Why is the campaign to improve school lunches not making more headway? In my opinion, one of the major barriers is the claim (heard in the media, and also in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution TV series) that kids only like “kid’s food”. Some argue that kids won’t willingly eat much else besides the high starch, high sugar, high fat diet of highly processed foods that we currently feed them (and that we’ve taught them to love). And others argue that eating any other way is too expensive or too complicated.
Of course, the truth is more complicated than that. Many American families do eat well! There are lots of inspiring examples out there, and I’ll blog about them too.
However, school lunch reform campaigners (like Chef Ann, Jamie Oliver, and the Slow Food movement’s Time for Lunch campaign) and academic researchers (like Marion Nestle) have consistently pointed out some of the shortcomings in our current approach. I am personally inspired by many of their ideas. But those arguments (‘kids just won’t eat that way’) have come back to haunt me in my personal attempts to get better food served at my daughters’ school and daycare.
So the French Kids School Lunch Project is intended to stimulate some creative thinking about what our kids could be eating. FOr example, based on the French approach, that we could (in general) dare to try introducing more diversity and fresh foods into lunchrooms. And we could integrate food education directly into the curriculum.
I know this sounds a little farfetched. I know it would have for me, before my family moved to France for a year. (Our time in France resulted in a personal family food revolution, as described in my book: French Kids Eat Everything).
One of the things we discovered was that there is no “kid’s food” in France. There’s just (mostly) real food, which kids and adults happily eat. Nowhere was this more obvious than in French schools. My daughters went to school and daycare for a year, which is where I learned about the wonderful way that French schools organize their lunches.
This experience is what inspired me to start the French Kids School Lunch Project. Every week during the school year, I will post a real school menu from a French town or village. Where possible, I’ll list how much it costs. I’ll share information on how French parents and teachers get their children to eat well, every single day. And I’ll have a lot to say about the French educational system and food system, which provides affordable, tasty food that kids love to eat. It’s not perfect, of course – every system has its flaws and drawbacks. But there are lots of ideas that we might learn from, and think about adapting to our own communities.
Many discussions around kid’s food focus on what parents are doing wrong (or people think we’re doing wrong). I hope this project inspires you with ideas about what we could be doing right!