Would your preschooler eat beet salad, cooked prunes, and Roquefort for lunch? French kids' school menus, this week in Toulouse

We’re back in southern France this week, in Toulouse–one of my favourite French cities (and the fourth largest in France). A university town with a big aerospace and aeronautics industry, it still manages to retain a sense of charm, in part because all of the buildings are built with the same salmon-colored brick; Toulouse is affectionately know as ‘la ville rose’ (the ‘Pink City’).

The Town Hall runs school kitchens all over the city, which serves meals to 25,000 children every day. Like many other French cities, Toulouse has improved the quality of its meals in the past few years. Organic food has been introduced: all of the bread, fruit, yogurt, pasta, and butter served is organic. Local products are purchased wherever possible (given that the region has the highest number of organic farmers in France, this is easier here than in some other regions).

So what are French kids eating this week in Toulouse? The following menu is for both primary schools (6 t0 12 years old) and preschools (3 to 5). What’s interesting is that–like in many towns–the menu is identical. There is no ‘kids’ food’ here — if Roquefort is on the menu (and indeed it is), everyone gets it. If smaller children don’t like something, they’ll be told that they have to taste it, but they won’t be forced to eat it. This is because the lunches are viewed as a way of introducing lots of different types of food to children–a sort of culinary education. In fact, children are much more likely to eat new things if they see their peers doing so with enthusiasm. It’s a gentle, fun way of broadening kids’ palates.

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, usually one piece per child!) and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought!

Monday, May 11th
Beet salad
Cooked ham (halal/kosher option is a hard-boiled egg)
Organic coquillettes (mini pasta) with butter
Cheese: Gouda
Dessert: Fresh fruit

Tuesday, May 12th
Country pâté (kosher/halal option: tuna ‘rillettes‘)
Organic chicken with green beans
Dairy: Fruit yogurt
Dessert: Fresh fruit

Wednesday, May 13th
Salad (lettuce)
Fish paupiette with sauce normande, and what berries
Cheese: Organic Roquefort
Dessert: Apple/apricot compote (fruit sauce)

Thursday, May 14th
Sauteed veal ‘marengo’ style, with a “3 cabbage casserole”
Dairy: Petit suisse (a thick Balkan-style yogurt, sweetened)
Dessert: Organic fruit

Friday, May 15th
Radishes with butter
Fish filet, sauce meunière (a buttery, creamy sauce)
Carrot puree
Dairy: Organic bulghar yogurt (plain)
Desert: Cooked prunes

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.

2 thoughts on “Would your preschooler eat beet salad, cooked prunes, and Roquefort for lunch? French kids' school menus, this week in Toulouse

  1. Good questions!

    There is bread (baguette) served with these lunches, but the French do not emphasize starches as much as you might think! Often they would have vegetables as a side dish. Breakfast, on the other hand, is consistently focused on white bread/baguette as the main source of starch.

    The beets are cooked, then sliced/diced, and served with vinaigrette and chopped parsley. Yum!


  2. Is there no starch for three of these lunches, or do they not always indicate on the menu? If not, is it traditionally French not to eat a starch, just vegetables for carbs?

    Is the beet salad raw?



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