Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is still going strong, even though it’s not running on TV anymore (although I do confess I still love watching those re-runs). And there’s an exciting new development: the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation has formed an Advocate Team: 22 bloggers have made a pledge to promote healthy kid’s food (I’ve included their names at the bottom of this page).
So what could the Food Revolution learn from France? It may surprise you to learn that France had its own kids food revolution a few years ago. But over the past decade or so, the French have started to worry about threats to their food culture, and worried even more about a small rise in child obesity rates (which are still much lower than other developed countries) in the 1990s.
In response, the French started their own Food Revolution. The government banned vending machines in schools (yep, that’s right, all schools, no exceptions), and then revised nutrition guidelines for the 6 million French kids eating in school cafeterias every day. Children are strongly discouraged from bringing lunch from home (and most don’t, because what they get at school is so tasty!). Freshly prepared three-course meals (bien sur!) are served every day; vegetables and fruit have to be served at every meal (raw one day, cooked the next), and some foods—notably fried food, ketchup, and sweetened desserts—are served no more than once per week. (You can check out some of the (unbelievably) delicious menus that French school kids eat at my French Kids School Lunch Project).
So France’s equivalent of Jamie Oliver, a chef named Cyril Lignac, arguably had a much easier job than his British counterpart. Both went into schools, made a TV show, wrote cookbooks. But whereas Jamie’s reception was, to put it bluntly, mixed, Cyril was received with open arms. The names of their two TV shows say it all: rather than Food Revolution, Lignac’s show was called Vive la Cantine (Long Live the Cafeteria)!
This might sound a little odd to self-styled ‘food revolutionaries’ in North America, but French kids (and parents) really love school lunches. They’re healthy, delicious, and affordable. They cost an average of $3 for a freshly prepared, 3-course hot meal; and kids from low-income families pay as little as 20 cents. The French are so proud that most communities (even tiny villages) now post their menus on-line (which is why I can translate them every week for the French Kids School Lunch Project)
These menus make the point that kids can eat well. The results of France’s Food Revolution (which is arguably a few centuries old) are there for all to see. In France, child obesity rates have stabilized, and even declined slightly. And, at least according to official statistics, French kids eat many more fruits and vegetables than North American kids do. Most importantly, they eat them happily. French kids really do eat everything–and parents have a great set of tactics and strategies for getting them to do so. These had such great results with our family that I was inspired to write French Kids Eat Everything (which will be published with HarperCollins in early April).
So, no more excuses! If the French can have such a successful Food Revolution, we can too.
I find it hard to understand why so many North Americans believe that kids only like ‘kid’s food’. Why do you think we fall into the trap of thinking that kids don’t like healthy food?
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ps I’m so proud to be a Jamie Oliver Food Foundation Advocate Team member! Here’s a list of all of the other members–check out their great blogs and products!
Brenda Thompson @ Meal Planning Magic
Kim Gerber @ Out of the Box Food
Natalie Perry @ Perry’s Plate
Thippi Fleckenstein @ Noodle On That
Amanda Wendt @ The Organic Trail
Amy Wilcox @ Mia Cucinas Cucina
Yvette Garfield @ Handstand Kids
Kelly Lester @ Easy Lunchboxes
Johanna Cook @ Momma Cuisine
Michelle Sybert @ Michelle’s Journal Corner (and Muffin Tin Monday!)
Jennifer Tyler Lee @ Crunch A Color
Laura Fuentes @ Momables
Katie Newell @ Health Nut Foodie
Nicole Cibellis @ A Family That Eats Together
Kelly Doscher @ The Food Minded Mama
Gwen Wilson @ Simply Healthy Family
Jamie Schler (honorary) @ Life’s A Feast
Bonnie Stoilkovich @ Zuma Organic
Shanna Ferrigno @ Ferrigno Fit
Karen Le Billon @ Karen Le Billon
Bri DeRosa @ Red Round Or Green
Isabelle Vorhies @ Isabelle At Home