Yummy French School Lunches…this week in sunny southern France

This week’s menu is from a small town in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in southern France on the Mediterranean coast (between better-known Provence and the Spanish border). It’s a bit off the beaten track, even for the French, who tend to head to the chic Côte d’Azur.

The town, named Gignac, has about 5000 people, living in a typical southern French village (think: winding streets too narrow to fit a car, and houses with red tiled roofs grouped around a central square where much of the village life still occurs). It’s only claim to fame? Beating back an invasion by the Sarrasins in the year 719 (yes, their memory is that long). Legend has that that a donkey named Martin woke up the villagers, warning them of the impending attack; his role is still celebrated every year by the villagers, who parade a larger-than-life papier-mâché donkey through the village. He even appeared, this year, at the ‘entertainment’ offered at school lunchtimes; like many schools in France, children are treated to a set of cultural shows at mid-day, to accompany the nearly two hour break they get at the mid-day meal. For some fun photos of what this looks like, click here.

So, what were children eating in Gignac this week?

As usual, the meals follow a four course structure: vegetable starter; main dish with vegetable side; cheese course; dessert. All meals are served with fresh baguette (eaten plain) and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought!

Monday, May 7th
Green salad and croûtons
Chicken drumsticks with paprika, served with green beans and parsley
Cheese: Samos (a light, creamy cheese)
Dessert: Flan with cookies

Tuesday, May 8th

Wednesday, May 9th
Red cabbage and celery salad with vinaigrette
Beef with carrots
Cheese: Edam
Dessert: Chocolate eclair

Thursday, May 10th
Cucumber with yogurt sauce
Fish: Hake with aïoli sauce, served with potatoes and carrots
Cheese: Camembert
Dessert: Fruit Compote
* (aïoli is a traditional sauce made with olive oil, garlic, and (typically) egg)

Friday, May 11th
Lentil salad with hard-boiled eggs
Ratatouille Provençale
Cheese: Comté
Dessert: Fresh fruit

The cost for these meals? An average of €3.34 per meal (approximately $4.30). Remember, lunch is the main meal of the day for the French (approximately 40 to 50% of caloric intake), so children are expected to eat a large meal at lunch time, and a smaller meal in the evening (just like adults). This requires more time: so children typically have at least 30 minutes (if not more) to eat, and an hour to play.

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.

3 thoughts on “Yummy French School Lunches…this week in sunny southern France

  1. Hi,

    I am waiting for your book (2-3 weeks) and I can’t wait!! I would love to see more recipes here. We are Canadian and strive to eat well – extremely limited processed foods as I love to cook and bake. I am looking for some good lunch ideas as my daughter starts kindergarten in a week!!


  2. So glad you’re enjoying the lunch menus! Looking forward to hearing about your summer lunch experiment!


  3. I love these school lunch posts. They are so different and refreshing from an American menu. I’m definitely incorporating this design and the concepts in my summer lunch menu with my 2 daughters and my niece. I can’t wait!


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