This week’s menu is from the town of Angers, which lies along the famous Loire River; the Anjou region is the birthplace of the House of Plantagenet–which ruled England from the twelfth century and gave name to the Angevin Kings of England). It’s gentle climate and relaxed pace of life are much appreciated in France (the French speak of “la douceur angevine — which might refer to the gentleness of the people or the climate!). Only two hours by high-speed train from Paris, Angers is still deep in the ‘provinces’, as the French call them.
School lunches in Angers are run by the municipality of Angers through a stand-alone company called EParc (created in the early 1908s). They provide 11,000 meals per day to children from 5000 families, in 42 different school restaurants (yes, that’s what they call them). To make and deliver these meals, there are 27 cooks, 160 servers/waiters, and 30 additional support personal (e.g. for deliveries and food procurement). On its website, EParc talks about the importance of its tripartite mission: food safety, food education (teaching children to appreciate food), food safety, and creating an enjoyable, social, relaxed moment for children at school. This is a reflection of the way that ‘school restaurants’ see themselves in France: they don’t believe that learning stops in the lunchroom, and try to make mealtimes enjoyable as well as instructive. For example, they have theme menus with cuisines from around the world, a ‘tasting week’, and even a cooking school.
Like many school food providers in France, the town of Angers also tries to promote local food products, organic food, and address environmental issues. For example, all of the extra food from the school kitchens in Angers is delivered to local food banks (watch a video in French here, which shows the schools delivering extra raw vegetables and fruits–scratch cooking means that the kitchens use these products in large quantity–and dairy products to the local food bank). Given that children only have one choice on the menu, levels of food waste are lower than in the US (the more choice, the more wastage, in general). Still, there is a degree of food waste, and a direct link with food banks is the solution that Angers has adopted.
So, what are kids eating this week in Angers?
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, June 4th
Starter: Tomato salad with vinaigrette
Main: Roast pork and gravy (roast turkey halal/kosher option) with potato ‘noisettes’ (new potatoes, roasted and eaten with the skins)
Dairy: Plain yogurt, with organic sugar
Tuesday, June 5th
Starter: Curried organic pasta (coquillettes) salad
Main: Roast fish with chive sauce, green beans with parsley
Cheese/Dairy: Petit Cotentin
Dessert: Chocolate Eclair
Wednesday, June 6th
Starter: Grapefruit salad
Main: Sauteed lamb (‘Red Label’) with penne regate (pasta)
Dessert: Vanilla yogurt
Thursday, June 7th
Starter: Cucumber and yogurt salad
Main: Vegetable casserole (Parmentier de légumes — roasted and served with a delicious crunchy breadcrumb topping)
Cheese/Dairy: Fromage frais (a smooth, creamy French dairy product, somewhere between clotted cream and yogurt)
Friday, June 8th
Starter: Tabouleh Salad
Main: Hardboiled egg with béchamel (white) sauce, and steamed spinach
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.