Beef tongue, goulash, grated organic carrots: What French Kindergarteners are eating this week!

My ‘French Kids’ School Lunch Project’ is back by popular demand! (For a full explanation of how school lunches are organized in France, click here.)

This week we’re in St Etienne de Rouvray, a small industrial town of about 28,000 people in Normandy best known for its unusual 16th century church.

The menu below is for the children in kindergarten; in France, children begin at the age of 2 and a half or 3 (whenever they are toilet trained), and attend kindergarten for three years before starting school at the age of 6. From the age of 4 onwards, they spend a full day at school (typically 8 to 5 pm)–so lunch is definitely an important meal. In fact, it’s supposed to be the biggest meal of the day for French children.

Keep in mind that children can’t bring lunch from home (unless they have allergies), and that they are all expected to taste whatever is served–even if they don’t eat it. Food education–introducing children to a wide variety of flavors and tastes–starts right from the early years!


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, September 10th
Salad: Cold tomato potage soup
Main: Chicken sausage with lentils
Cheese/Dairy: Yogurt
Dessert: A pear

Tuesday, September 11th
Salad: Macedonian salad with hard-boiled eggs
Main: Minced chicken with ‘sauce suprême’ and pasta
Cheese/Dairy: Fromage blanc (somewhat like Greek yogurt)
Dessert: Fruit compote (sauce)

Wednesday, September 12th
Salad: Watermelon
Main: Vegetable goulash with carrots ‘vichy’ style
Cheese/Dairy: Mini Babybel (a miniature cheese much like Gouda, in an individual red wrapper that kids tend to love)
Dessert: Apple pie

Thursday, September 13th
Salad: Organic grated carrots
Main: Minced beef tongue with spicy sauce and vegetable puree
Cheese/Dairy: Yogurt
Dessert: None

Friday, September 14th
Salad: Tomatoes with vinaigrette
Main: Filet of hake with cream sauce and bulghur
Cheese/Dairy: None
Dessert: Abricotine (a flaky fruit-filled pastry)

Now, how many of these dishes would your kids have tasted (much less eaten) when they were in kindergarten?

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.

Paëlla and polenta, cauliflower and cordon bleu: What French Kids are eating, this week in the French village of Mougins

Just 15 minutes from Cannes, Mougins is a small medieval village in Provence, long frequented by artists. The quiet lanes and streets (shaded by pine, cypress, and olive trees) are a contrast to the hectic pace of life on the coast, where endless traffic jams (particularly in summer) and a concrete jungle have ruined much of the charm of this stretch of the Cote d’Azur. Mougins is, in fact, arguably more chic than Cannes, in a style the French call ‘bohemian-bourgeois’ (or, simply, ‘bo-bo’): Pablo Picasso spent over a decade living here, Yves Saint Laurent was a regular, the famed chef Alain Ducasse ran a restaurant in the village, and the new socialist prime minister, Francois Hollande, has a vacation home here. It’s perhaps no surprise that Mougins hosts an annual ‘gastronomy festival’, and attracts some of the top chefs from around the world each year.

So, what are French kids eating this week in Mougins? All of the meat served is organic, as is the bread, and one of the meals served every week is entirely organic. The average price is 2.92 Euros ($3.60 US) per child per meal, which is the non-subsidised rate (low income families pay less). Not a bad deal, in my opinion!


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 June 25th
Paëlla (as this includes vegetables, seafood, and rice, it is considered substantial enough to be a starter and main course)
Dairy: Goat’s cheese
Fresh fruit

Tuesday, June 26th
Seafood salad
Turkey, with cauliflower and ‘sauce agrumes’ (a citrus-based sauce)
Dairy: Fromage blanc
Fresh fruit

Wednesday, June 27th
no school

Thursday, June 28th
Tomato/grapefruit salad
Cordon bleu and green peas
Cheese: Tomme (a firm, aged yet relatively mild cheese from the Alps)
Fresh fruit

Friday, June 29th
Green salad
Roasted fish with roasted tomatoes and polenta gratinée (a baked casserole, with a savory crust)
Dairy: Yogurt
Fresh fruit

For those of you who have read other menus, you’ll note that the food served in Mougins isn’t very different than that served in lots of other French villages. This village may be a bit wealthier than average, but an effort is still made to keep prices low. That allows everyone to have access to the cantine if they need it. This ‘solidarity’ (as the French term it) is an important part of the philosophy of the French school system. Food for thought!


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.

Lentils and lamb, beets and berries, spinach and salad…what French kids are eating, this week in St Etienne

Not all French people live in charming villages in Provence with a local market just around the corner. Many live in big cities, with long commutes, dual working couples, the usual pressures of modern life. School lunches are even more crucial here, feel the French, as most children don’t have the option of going home for lunch (as some still do in small villages).

School lunches are paid for locally — there is no equivalent of the National School Lunch Program (that’s right–no subsidies, no bulk commodity purchases). Everything is decided and paid for locally; parents pay part of the cost of lunches (typically about 3 Euros or $4 dollars), and local taxes cover any remaining costs. That’s why it’s so interesting so look at lunches in different communities in France–they really do vary tremendously.

This week we’re in the centre of France, in the town of St Etienne: best-known for its role in the arms industry (it was even renamed ‘Armeville’ during the French Revolution!). In addition to arms manufacturing, it was also a big mining town. It’s also one of the first cities in France to decide to convert to organic food for school lunches. As of January 2012, 70% of the food served is organic. And by 2014, 100% will be organic. And most of the food is sourced locally (cabbage and carrots in winter, and only a rare serving of tropical fruit).

And it didn’t turn out to be as expensive as you might think. Eliminating expensive food items (like pineapple in winter) saved some money, and long-term contracts with local organic suppliers reduced costs. School lunches in St Etienne cost between 1 and 4.5 €uros (prices are set on a sliding scale, depending on family revenue)–or between $1.3 and $5. In fact, when the city decided to introduce organic food, it lowered the average cost of meals by 10% (20% for lower-income families). The number of children eating meals at the cantine rose (to 2500 per day).

Regular surveys indicate a high level satisfaction: 85% in summer, and 75% in winter (must be the cabbage). The menus do look delicious….

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, June 18th

Organic beets with shallot sauce
Roast chicken with organic lentils
Dairy: Organic ‘Petit fondu‘ (a soft cheese, somewhat like brie)
Dessert: Seasonal organic fruit (at the moment, peaches, cherries, and apricots!)

Tuesday, June 19th
Organic fusili salad
Organic omelette and organic steamed spinach
Dairy: Plain yogurt (organic) with sugar
Dessert: Seasonal organic fruit

Wednesday, June 20th
no school

Thursday, June 21st
Organic coleslaw salad
Lamb meatballs with tajine (Moroccan) sauce and organic couscous
Dairy: Tomme (a mild, hard cheese from the Alps)
Dessert: Vanilla cream

Friday, June 22nd
Cantaloupe
Fish filet with sautéed organic vegetables and organic potatoes
Dairy: Organic camembert
Dessert: Organic compote (fruit sauce)

You can tell I’m rather enthused about this menu, right? They demonstrate the power of community–parents, teachers, local government working together. They also demonstrate a spirit of solidarity–because meals are priced on a sliding scale, everyone gets a heathy meal.

Food for thought.

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.

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
Quiche
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.

Grapefruit, vegetable casserole, and steamed spinach: French Kids' School Lunch menus, this week in the Loire Valley

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
Dessert: Peach

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)
Cheese/Dairy: Brie
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)
Dessert: Strawberries

Friday, June 8th
Starter: Tabouleh Salad
Main: Hardboiled egg with béchamel (white) sauce, and steamed spinach
Cheese/Dairy: Emmental
Dessert: Cantaloupe

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.

Wheat berries, beet salad, chicken 'Waterzoi': French Kids' School Lunches, this week in Aniane

Welcome to the little town of Aniane (population 3000), surrounded by vineyards, nestled up against the rugged hills of the Cevennes and the Larzac–two of France’s least populated regions. Aniane was once an important way-station for Christian pilgrims on their way to nearby St Guilhem Le Desert (a UNESCO heritage site, which proudly proclaims itself one of the most beautiful villages in France). Most tourists simply pass through here on their buses, but we stopped long enough to enjoy the narrow, winding village lanes.

So what are children eating in Aniane this week? Every month, the menu features seasonal fruits and vegetables: cherries, turnips, and zucchini (courgette). And once a month they have a ‘colourful menu’–this month’s colour is red!

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 28th
Holiday

Tuesday, May 29th
Wheat berry salad
Chicken ‘waterzoi’ (a classic Flemish stew) with green beans
Cheese/Dairy: Petit suisse (a classic French dairy product – like a thick yogurt)
Dessert: Fresh fruit

Wednesday, May 30th
No school: French children traditionally don’t go to school on Wednesdays, as this is the day when they do lessons and extracurricular activities.

Thursday, May 31st
Carrots and celery with vinaigrette
Roast herbed pork with green peas
Cheese: ‘Vache Picon’
Dessert: Chocolate Eclair

Friday, June 1st
Beet salad
Cheese: Pont l’Evêque à la coupe (a Brie-like cheese from Normandy, one of the oldest still in production!)
Dessert: Fresh fruit

The ‘Color’ Menu of the month: Featuring red foods!
Tomato tartare
Chili con carne with red kidney beans, and rice
Cheese: Babybel (like a tiny Gouda, in an individual glossy red wrapper)
Dessert: Cherry clafoutis

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.

Is your child eating celery salad, roasted endive, and grilled fish at school this week? That's what French kids are eating….

This week we’re in northern France, at the border with Germany, in a rural part of the ‘Alsace’ region. Small rural villages often band together to create a shared menu for the small schools they serve. As no federal government subsidies are provided, the local town hall has to fund the costs of the meals entirely. So in some poorer regions, the menus are more simple. Contrast this menu, for example, to that of Versailles (one of the wealthiest towns in France) a few months ago. But they still put a lot of effort and love into the meals: take a look at this adorable menu.

The dishes will probably also seem a lot more familiar than the ones I’ve been posting from southern France over the past few weeks. French food is still quite localized: people in Brittany will eat differently from those in Provence, for example. As Alsace has a strong cultural connection with Germany, it’s perhaps no surprise these menus seem more ‘anglo-saxon’ (the term the French used for the non-Latin speaking countries to the north, including Germany, Holland, and England).

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 21st
Celery salad
Spaghetti with bolognaise sauce
Green salad (the type of lettuce–Batavia–is specified on the menu!)
Dessert: Fresh fruit

Tuesday, May 22nd
Tomato salad
Roast chicken with penne pasta
Dessert: Plain yogurt

Wednesday, May 23rd
Macedonian Salad with vinaigrette
Turkey filet with mushroom sauce, potatoes
Dessert: Fresh fruit

Thursday, May 24th
Green salad with vegetables
Grilled pork and french fries
Dessert: ‘Arlequin’ of fresh fruit

Friday, May 25th
Crepe with ham and cheese
Fish filet (pollock) with ‘bonne femme’ sauce and roasted endive
Dessert: Fresh seasonal fruit

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.