In case you were wondering what Parisian school children eat for lunch - and who hasn't since they seem to be born 'gourmands' - here's this weeks school menu for les enfants in the 8th arrondissement of Paris this week.
Even the three-year-olds sit down at tables with knives and forks and spoons and real plates and are fed the same kind of food their working papas and mamans are probably eating at the brasserie on their lunch breaks. The menu is posted on the school gate (and now online) every week so maman can ask how the endives-au-jambon were and what fruit they ate. Parents are expected to read it, and avoid serving any repeat food for dinner. Food and eating are considered part of the academic curriculum, starting in nursery school. A child’s palate is as worthy of education as a child’s brain.
There is also no rush. The lunch break lasts a full hour and a half, at least 45 minutes of which involves actual eating. Fresh ingredients– local meats, fruits and vegetables– are used as much as possible.
Other menu items include: ratatouille, grilled fish, cabbage remoulade, sauteed chicken, paté, lentils, assorted cheeses (even stinky ones), sweet potato salad, petit poids, cucumber and chevre salad, and, at least once, escargot.
- Lunch is traditionally the largest meal of the day in France, representing approximately 40% of children’s caloric intake.
-There are no 'kids' foods in French school lunches – the French actively teach kids to like and eat a wide variety of 'adult' food.
- Every child sits down to the same meal – there are no substitutions or multiple choices available to customize the lunch.
-Packed lunches are strongly discouraged for all ages, K-12.
LUNCH HAS FOUR COURSES
1. Vegetable starter: leafy green salad or sliced or grated vegetables.
2. The warm main dish, which includes a vegetable side dish.
3. Cheese course.
4. Dessert is fresh fruit four times a week with a sweet treat on the fifth day.
All this is governed by REGULATIONS mandated by the French Ministry of Education
- Municipalities must adhere to strict regulations governing portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods.
- The minimum time required/allotted for children to sit at the table is at least 30 minutes.
- Children drink water with lunch: there are no other drinks of any kind available at lunch.
- Vending machines and fast food are banned in all schools.
- Twenty different meals are served per month. Schools do not repeat the same dish more than once every month in any given school.
- Over the course of 20 meals (one month), only 4 main dishes and 3 desserts can be high fat (more than 15% fat).
- Vegetables comprise approximately 50% of the overall meal.
- Fried food can only be served four times per month.
- Ketchup is limited to once per week (many don’t serve it at all).
- Schools are not allowed to leave any sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressing, or ketchup available to students to serve themselves freely.
Most schools are built with kitchens and cooking is done on the premises. In some cases, municipalities may have a central kitchen, where food is made for multiple schools and then delivered. Increasingly, however, French schools are contracting out meal preparation to private companies, which is the cause of some controversy in France. However, even where a private company prepares the meals it is the municipality’s responsibility to provide staff to monitor and serve them.
COST PER LUNCH
The relevant French law allows municipalities to set their own prices, but also allows for a sliding scale, and caps prices — with the goal of allowing all children to have equal access. Thus, prices vary but in Paris, for example, most families pay about $3.00, the wealthiest families pay $7.00, and the lowest-income families pay $0.20 cents per meal.
Cara- Tuesday bon appétit