Olive bread and cucumber salad, lentils and fish filet, bean salad and chocolate ice cream! What French kids are eating for school lunch, this week in the Alps

This week we’re in Saint-Julien-de-Genevois (population 5000), a small town in the Alps in south-eastern France, right on the border with Switzerland (in fact, it’s a suburb of Geneva–many French people choose to live here but commute into town every day).

The Town Hall has a ‘Menus Committee’, where parents and elected representatives approve the menus every month.

Colorful menus (like this one) are sent home, posted on school doors, and available online, so everyone knows what the children are eating.

And it sounds pretty good (see that dessert? It’s on this weeks’ menu!).

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.

Salad: Savory olive bread
Main: Sautéed chicken with green peas à la barigoule (a traditional sauce made with artichoke hearts)
Cheese/Dairy:Fromage blanc (a light, creamy cheese that is somewhat like a thick yogurt in consistency)
Dessert: Seasonal fruit

Salad: Cucumber with balkan yogurt sauce
Main: Roast pork with gravy and lentil stew
Cheese/Dairy:Reblochon de Savoie A traditional unpasteurized cheese from the Alps: richm creamy yellow, nutty-tasting, and a little stinky!
Dessert: Apple compote (sauce)

Salad: Green bean salad
Main: Sautéed veal with bulghur wheat
Cheese/Dairy: A mild, very light cheese (made with skim milk), also from the Rhône-Alpes region
Dessert: Seasonal fruit

Salad: Grated carrot salad (a French kids’ favorite)
Main: Filet of fish with lemon; ratatouille and rice
Dessert: Liégeois au chocolat The treat of the week! A rich chocolate ice cream topped with whipped cream, served in a tall glass. Say no more.

Salad: Cabbage salad with mayonnaise (sort of like cole slaw)
Main: Sautéed beef with sweet and sour sauce, and pasta
Cheese/Dairy: Organic yogurt with organic sugar
Dessert: Fresh fruit cocktail

Like many small towns and villages, Saint-Julien has decided to outsource its meals to a private company, which makes them locally. It’s a more cost-effective approach–particularly because health and hygiene regulations are so strict, making it prohibitively expensive for many small towns to upgrade kitchens, train staff, and follow the complicated healthy regulations (for example, every meal is sampled, and the samples are stored frozen for several weeks in case of any food poisoning). The issue of whether or not to keep the meals ‘in-house’ has caused much controversy in France in recent years, with no end in sight. I’ll be blogging next month about the pros and cons of ‘do-it-yourself’ versus ‘bring in the food company’ — a choice many schools in other countries are facing.

ps The grated carrot salad is on my blog, here.

Bon Appétit!

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.

9 thoughts on “Olive bread and cucumber salad, lentils and fish filet, bean salad and chocolate ice cream! What French kids are eating for school lunch, this week in the Alps

  1. Pingback: A New Bedtime Story | studio t

  2. Pingback: School food abroad | The Hoblog

  3. Hi – I read your book recently and many of your ideas really resonate with me. Thanks for the insights into French eating. We had a “taste” of France while travelling there and it was so interesting to get a North American perspective on the French culture of food. My kids are a bit older (9 and 12) and eat reasonably but certainly not with the same palette of a child in France! However, I look forward to seeing the menu ideas from French schools that you have posted and trying some of them out on my family. A great idea! I will tell my friends too.


  4. I’m waiting so mush for yourbook to be translated in russian. I have read some parts publihed and find it amazing. I was searching throught the internet the examples of the french kids meal but totally failed. And I’m so happy to find you website with such helpful examples! I would like to pass on the french meal style to my little dauhgter and very glad that I heard about your book! But it’s a pity that we will see it only 1 year later than in Europe. But still thank you so much for giving the opportunity to introduce with the french habbits!


  5. Love your information about French eating habits. I have been born and raised in the US (NC specifically). I am learning everything I can about french cooking and eating habits. I want my family to stay strong and fit!! Your articles have been so helpful and eye-opening!!! Love it!!


  6. This is an amazing website! My husband is French and I love visiting France because his mother makes the best meals! I’ve also noticed he has such great eating habits and wanted to find a way to pass that on to our children, which can be challenging when we don’t live in France. So this website is a great find!

    Also wanted to ask if these menus were appropriate for toddlers…my daughter is 18 months and has already eaten many items listed.

    Many thanks!


  7. Hi – so glad you liked the book! Yes, I am going to keep providing menus. It’s been a bit busy as I am finishing up the manuscript for my next book (very exciting!), which will be published in 2013. But your comment is a good reminder to get back on those menus! Happy New Year!


  8. I absolutely loved your book, French Kids Eat Everything! I was wondering if you are going to continue providing French school menus? I have been using them as a jumping off point for my menus at home. Thanks! Terri


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