The little French town of Evian (population 8000) is best known as the home of bottled mineral water, but for the French it is also a ‘thermes’ (hot springs) destination, where for centuries people have come to soak up the warm waters (it’s even a recognized medical treatment for certain ailments).
Just like other small towns all over France, the local government in Evian is responsible for running the school lunch program. Unlike in the US, there is no national funding for school lunch programs, so cross-subsidies help everyone participate. The highest-income families pay the top rate of $5 per meal, but most families pay just over $3 per meal, and the lowest meal rate is under $2. Participation is voluntary, but most children do eat their meals at the cantine–who wouldn’t want to, with a menu like this?
Monday, January 23rd
Cheese ‘fondue’ with sheep’s cheese
Apple compote (much like applesauce)
Tuesday, January 24th
Special Menu: Chinese New Year
Chicken with soya and honey sauce
Rice ‘cantonnais style
Wednesday, January 25th
Thursday, January 25th
Vegetarian filet (usually a mix of lentils, breadcrumbs, herbs & sometimes cheese)
Yogurt cake (a sweet, tangy pound cake that is a French kids’ favorite)
Friday, January 26th
Pink grapefruit salad
Chicken choucroute (French Alsatian dish with sausages, sauerkraut, potatoes, and other vegetables)
Not bad for a little town of 8000! Actually, these dishes are prepared off-site and delivered by a local private company; school staff only usually reheat, plate, and serve. This is an increasing (and controversial) trend in France, as some small municipalities have closed their kitchens–which used to cook meals for the schools, retirement homes, and government offices. The meals are still tasty (the French wouldn’t put up with anything less), but often a little less fresh. And the loss of local jobs is also a sore point for some. But those in favor argue the meals are just (or nearly) as good, more convenient, and sometimes cheaper.
So, just like North America, the French have their school food debates. But it’s my feeling that their standards for what they actually serve to kids are much higher.
This blog post is part of my French Kids School Lunch Project. Every week, I post the school lunch menus from a different village or town in France, where three-course, freshly-prepared hot lunches are provided to over 6 million children in the public school system every day. These meals cost, on average, $3 per child per day (and prices for low-income families are subsidised). My hope is that these menus (together with my other blog posts about the French approach to kid’s food) will spark a conversation about what children CAN eat, and how we can do better at educating them to eat well.