Does it really matter what kids eat for school lunch in other countries?
Two years ago on BrightonYourHealth I did a 30 meal school lunch nutrition and taste comparison between French and American school lunch menus. At that time the American Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 was in its finishing stages but was not yet a legal obligation. Now in both France and America, governmental laws have mandated stricter school lunch nutritional guidelines for the meals served in our children’s school lunch cafeterias.
If you are American, does it really matter what French kids eat for lunch? And vice versa? Couldn’t looking at what works well in one country’s lunch system culturally translate to another? In every country worldwide, child malnutrition and over-nutrition is an important topic on everyone’s agenda. Because the school lunch program is a key area where our children get their nutrition, why not look how other countries successfully feed their kids in the school lunch program as examples to use for improvement. Do you agree?
How have American and French school lunch meals changed over the last two years?
In America, the main nutritional changes in the school lunch program have looked at meal standards to be based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This means increases in the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu. There is also a focus on decreasing the amounts fat and in particular saturated fat in meals.
In France the child nutritional targets have been less defined but in general the goal is to have one additional calcium rich food at each lunch, less condiments at the table (salt, mayonnaise and ketchup) and portion sizes according to age.
You can read details on the changes in both countries here:
How have these school lunch meal changes been received by children who eat in the school cafeteria?
For American children what I have heard and read from here (over the big pond) is that the echos have not have been 100% positive. The biggest critics have been the children as Jon Stewart from Comedy Central pointed out,
“Well, the food under new health guidelines tastes bad. Stewart jokes, ”News flash! Extry extry! School lunches suck!” And students are still hungry after they eat it. “So you hate the food and you want more of it.”
Message here: low-fat or non-fat food can mean low-taste or no-taste.
In France, the school lunch program changes were implemented quickly and without much publicity. One year later the French children seem to be taking the new cantine menus as normal. However, the changes in the French school lunch menus were minor compared to the American changes.
Back to looking at the American and French school lunch meals.
In 2010 I took similar sized towns in America and France and compared their school lunch menus for that day. I looked at American menus from: Ames, Iowa; Toms River, New Jersey, Irving, Texas; and Fort Collins,Colorado. French menus were from: Poitiers, Pau, Nantes, and Albi.
Here are these menus compared again, two years later; the same American towns to the same French towns. Let me know what you think.
Nota: American children have choices for the dishes. French children do not have a choice-they must eat what is offered that day, exceptions for allergies and religious reasons. While American kids can bring a packed lunch, French kids are not allowed; they must eat what is offered on the menu if they eat at school. Otherwise a parent/caregiver picks them up for their two-hour lunch break. Milk is a staple on the American school lunch program. This is not true for France-milk is not offered but cheese and yogurt is. French kids drink water and are allowed bread (usually sliced baguette pieces) on demand.
There is no school for French elementary schoolchildren on Wednesdays, so no French menu for Wednesday, November 28.
Hope these menus bring you bon appetit!
A Week of French School Lunch Menus Compared To American School Lunch Menus
Monday, November 26, 2012
Ames, Iowa versus Poitiers France
Whole Grain Chicken Nuggets OR Yogurt/American Cheese/Crackers/Crackers Fun Lunch
Mashed Potatoes OR Jicama Slices w/ Lite Dressing
Orange Wedges OR Pineapple Tidbits
Radishes with Butter
Daube Marseillaise (Beef Stew with tomatoes, olives, onions and green pepper) with Rice
Emmental cheese, Applesauce
November 27, 2012 (note: for Albi, France November 27 menu not available as of publishing date-using November 20, 2012)
Fort Collins, Colorado versus Albi, France
Veggie Lasagne OR Cheeseburger OR Uncrustable PB&J
Green salad with Avocado, Surimi, Endives, Grapefruit with a vinaigrette
Aligot cheese and Whole apple
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Irving, Texas versus Nantes, France
Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce & Bread OR Stix or Turkey Ham OR Deli Turkey Sandwich OR Chef/Veg. Chef Salad w/Bread Stix,
Tossed Salad, Peachy Pear
Organic shredded beets
Cauliflower with Béchamel sauce
Tomme cheese and Chocolate eclair
Friday, November 30, 2012
Toms River, New Jersey versus Pau, France
Domino’s Pizza OR Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Baked Apples w/Cinnamon
Now, your thoughts? Who wins for taste? Nutrition? Food diversity?
To make it even more interesting, I am going to take the next step up and look at the menu for that American and French town two years ago and compare it to the menus these school lunch cafeterias are serving this month in November 2012. This next step will be through five articles in the days to come, so stay tuned. You’ll also hear my opinion on these menus presented today.
But would love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a comment in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below.
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