This week we’re in the city of Poitiers, a medieval town in the middle of France (site of historic battles, Roman ruins, perched on a hill overlooking gorgeous countryside, cobblestoned streets — yup, all of the clichés about France). Poitiers was also the site of a major US Army and Air Force presence after WW II–there was even a Poitiers American high school! The town has now hung its hopes on information technology (it’s home to ‘Futuroscope’, France’s futuristic theme park). As is so often the case in France, it’s an intriguing mix of ancient and modern.
Poitiers is also apparently a town that takes kids’ food seriously. The website explains that each meal has either fresh (raw) fruits or vegetables; a protein-rich dish (usually meat, fish or eggs); cooked vegetables; a dairy product (cheese or yogurt — milk is never served, as it is usually only consumed at breakfast); and fresh fruit for dessert most days. Two organic dishes are served per week; and one meal per month is entirely organic. The Town Hall (which is in charge of providing school meals) has also partnered with the local technical high school’s cooking program; as part of their curriculum, the high school students make dishes with fresh, seasonal produce and heritage vegetables (focusing on traditional varieties that are only rarely used any more)–reminding cooks and kids alike of the importance of food as cultural heritage. A dietician develops the school lunch menus every 6 weeks, making sure that children’s meals are balanced each day, but also making sure they eat sufficient variety of nutritious foods on a weekly and monthly basis. The town even reports a summary of types of foods offered on its website (so parents can see that, during the 44 meals served in September and October, children were served fish 9 times, fresh fruit 18 times, vegetables 44 times, and fried food precisely twice).
As in other towns and cities, parents pay according to income. For the meals below, the highest-income families pay about $6 per meal, and the lowest-inceom families pay about 60 cents (yes, that’s right, 60 cents), with the average somewhere around $3.50 per meal. (The parents are billed directly, and the tariffs they pay are private information.) This social solidarity is quite common in France — families get special reduced rates for many things (even train travel), and low-income families get reduced prices for everything from meals to after-school activities.
So, what are kids eatings this week in Poitiers?
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! For a full explanation of how school lunches are organized in France, click here.
Monday, October 8th
Salad: Tomato mozzarella salad
Main: Roast veal with tarragon sauce, organic zucchini with sauce ‘Provençale’ (tomatoes, onions, olives and Herbes de Provence like thyme and oregano)
Cheese/Dairy: Fromage blanc (a light, creamy, soft cheese that is best described as being halfway between yogurt and cream cheese in consistency), with sugar
Tuesday, October 9th
Salad: Vegetable-Lemon Terrine (a baked vegetable paté with carrots, broccoli, celery, spinach, eggs, shallots, nutmeg, and cream)
Main: Rice and red beans, with sautéed carrots, zucchini, and red peppers
Dessert: Chocolate Flan (somewhat like a light cheese cake) and an orange
Wednesday, October 10th
Salad: Wheat berry salad with olives, tuna, tomatoes
Main: Scalloped turkey with gravy, and buttered green beans
Cheese/Dairy:Bonbel cheese, a mild cheese rather like Gouda
Dessert: A pear
Thursday, October 11th
Salad: Salad greens
Main: Organic ground beef with roast potatoes
Dessert: Pear-Apple compote (fruit sauce)
Friday, October 12th
Salad: Organic beet salad (a French kids’ favorite)
Main: Fish (hake) filet with dill-shallot sauce, and steamed cauliflower
Cheese/Dairy:Cantafrais cheese (a light, spreadable cheese)
Dessert: Flan Patissier A fresh flan made by a ‘patissier’ (baker specializing in desserts). Nice way to end the week!
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.