category menu

French School Gourmet Lunches: Even Jamie Oliver Couldn’t Do Better

middle school lunch room

Note: Don’t miss the menu below for how French children are eating this week.

National School Lunch Week In America

It is National School Lunch Week in America. Two years ago here on BrightonYourHealth, we focused a lot of energy on this topic and fueled the public’s interest by providing a successful analysis comparing thirty days of typical school menus in France to America (interested in seeing these articles click on category: school lunch on top of this page). Most of the menu days were taken from the large school district  in my hometown of Toms River, New Jersey and compared to an equally large district of my current town of Pau, France. The comparison was to observe how school lunch worked in other countries, France in particular, which has a well-known and respected school lunch program. My goal back in 2010 was to look at ways that we as parents, caregivers, teachers and all those concerned could improve and support what was happening with child nutrition, particularly in America-a country with childhood obesity statistics that have skyrocketed.

From those beginning articles readers were interested in knowing more and I tried to find productive ways and suggestions on how you could:  support your school and the movement for better school lunches, how to pack healthy school lunches from home and how to use your homes as a good health resource for your child to make the healthiest food choices in school.

Has there been progress on the school lunch program?

If you remember in 2010 there was much controversy on what we were feeding our kids at school. Now here we are in 2012, things are moving in the right direction: federal laws have passed both in America and France to mandate to healthier food dishes and menus on all public school lunch menus in both countries. But realistically, have things really gotten better? We had the pink slime scare, there is much in the news that the new American menus are too healthy, too tasteless. I also read there is twice as much school food waste in the American school lunch program compared to two years ago. Is this just an adjustment period to positive change? Are things going to settle down and kids start to eat what is on their lunch tray and leave the cafeteria full and satiated?

Are French kids still eating gizzards and radish as part of the French school gourmet lunch program?

In collaboration with School Lunch Week, I thought it would important to revisit school lunch menus and note how the new legislation changed school lunch menus from two years ago. Over the next days, I want to check-in and let you know how my former hometown of Toms River, New Jersey is doing and see if they have made some improvements from their dismal (in my opinion) menus that I wrote about two years earlier. Wouldn’t it be fun also to see how Pau’s menus are doing? Are they still serving gizzards and radishes to three-year-olds? I would love to know, maybe you would too, so I will see what is on the school lunch menu in Pau.

Combining taste and health could be the right answer

But to end on the positive, today’s article is a call to action to those planning school menus to show some examples of healthy school lunch food choices that are also full of taste. Do you believe, like me, that it is possible to meet a child’s health and taste compromise?  It may take efforts and creativity to improve the school lunch menu where you live. Perhaps we cannot meet taste and health goals on a daily dish basis, but why not, as we dietitians promote, look at the overall weekly plan and feel we have made steps forward towards giving our children healthy school lunch meal options that also taste good.

A week school lunch menu for Pau, France

Here is Pau, France menus for this week, October 15-19th, combining creative menu planning, taste and health.

Note: Each meal is served with water and slices of baguette.

Lundi(Monday) 15  Mardi (Tuesday) 16 Jeudi (Thursday)18 Vendredi (Friday) 19
Rôti de dinde sauce louisiane(Roast turkey with Louisiana sauce) Carotte râpée vinaigrette olive / citron(Shredded carrot salad with olive and lemon vinaigrette) Salade verte et pignons(Green salad with pine nuts) Riz Maïs Poivrons(Rice, Corn, Peppers)
Trio de légumes Romanesco et Riz safrané(Three types of Italian style vegetables and saffron rice) Emincé de veau bergeracquoise(Shredded Veal Bergerac style (region near Pau) Parmentier de canard (Casserole of duck, mashed potatoes, shredded nuts) Dés de saumon sce béarnaise *(Pieces of salmon with bearnaise sauce)
Chèvre noix noisette *(Goat cheese with walnuts and hazelnuts) Pomme “Roty”(Either roasted potato or apple) Crème dessert caramel(Caramel cream dessert) Haricot beurre(Butter beans)
Raisin(Grapes)Pain Spécial(Special Bread) Yaourt fermier aux fruits fabriqué à Poueyferré(Farm fresh yogurt with fruits manufactured in Poueyferre) Tourte myrtille & crème anglaise(Blueberry pie with English cream)Pâtisserie de fabrication artisanale(Dessert homemade by baker)


I will make a disclaimer: this week in France, ironically, is the “Semaine du Gout” the 23rd edition of celebrating taste and taste education.  The menus are cooked with a special touch using local products and discovery menus.

Jamie Oliver couldn’t do better, could he?

Jamie Oliver would be proud to see this menu on every kids’ school lunch tray.  Would your children eat it? If they were raised with the philosophy of tasting everything that is put in front of them at the table, if they are hungry when they sit down at the lunch cafeteria able, if they are accustomed to eating a variety of foods; then  I think it would be a big success for everyone. Note that there is no school on Wednesdays in French primary schools, the reason for no menu on October 17th.

Bon Appetit!

If you liked what you read and want to learn more, why not subscribe to BrightonYourHealth? You will get up to date international health information and news in your inbox when new articles are published. You can subscribe by clicking here.


, , , ,

8 Responses to French School Gourmet Lunches: Even Jamie Oliver Couldn’t Do Better

  1. Flo October 21, 2012 at 16:24 #

    Good point Mary; that French kids eat similar food at home and at school. Food education starts from the moment babies start to eat real food, Personally I managed to include all kinds of mixed veggies into my kids blended food in the beginning. Now that they are adults, only mushroom is banned from my son`s plate, which is a choice he made, and that is not bad at all. They always choose a simple restaurant instead of a fast food joint when given a choice and I am proud of them.

  2. Samantha October 17, 2012 at 16:01 #

    I’m amazed and not surprised all at the same time! French children wouldn’t turn their noses to a lunch at school because it isn’t foreign to them. That’s what’s served at home. In America, the food waste has increased because the general population of students are not exposed to those foods at home so they won’t eat it. Reviewing the menu above, I would guess that the food is also seasoned well –something lost in American school lunches as well. I can remember as kid not wanting the vegetables served at school because they weren’t palatable. At home however, I never turned one away. My mom would season them to perfection! I can even recall my friends at the time eating the veggies at our house but not at home.

    Great post! 🙂

    • mbrighton October 20, 2012 at 18:45 #

      Hi Samantha, thank you very much for your comment. These type of French lunches are well received by French children because they also eat like this outside of school too. The school is a bridge to home and vica versa, including the food that is served in the cafeteria. Appreciate you reading and insights! Mary

  3. ~ The Lady in Red ~ October 17, 2012 at 15:12 #

    My daughter is drooling over the French menu you posted. It’s an example that should be shared in the U.S.

    Do you know in attempt to make school lunches healthier here in her school district in the U.S. they even eliminated the daily option of a bagel with cheese!? That’s just one example. Since when is that unhealthy? Then, they claim they are providing more fruits and vegetables to the kids when they have almost eliminated “fresh” whole apples and “fresh” whole pears from choices and are for the most part providing the children with pre-cut, pre-packaged preservative-ridden apple slices that are tasteless. There is only 1% milk on the menu, as well, which many children do not like the taste of. They say it’s too watered down. Now instead of buying milk with her lunch, my daughter is opting for water or juice which is higher in sugar because she no longer enjoys drinking the milk. I can’t say I blame her.

    You’ve got schools and the U.S. government on one-hand saying they want healthier lunches for kids – but at the price of taste? And until they banned pink slime from school lunches, they were claiming that that was part of a healthy lunch program, too.

    Well-balanced meals and the process of adopting good eating habits comes from eating everything in moderation, too. It’s not about eliminating all higher calorie foods from a diet and making meals tasteless.

    We are fortunate that I can supply my daughter with lunches from home and we are not in a situation where we can not afford to do that. However, what about the children who have no choice and have to participate in the U.S. school lunch programs? I feel bad for them.

    Also, if the kids don’t like their school bought lunches, they won’t eat most of it, come home, and look for the quickest and easiest snack to eat. In most cases – that means bags of processed cookies, chips, or other foods that promote obesity when you eat too much. But eating too much of a treat at that point isn’t in the front of your mind when you’re just hungry. Instead of having a cookie for a snack, you might eat half a dozen because you didn’t like the lunch you were served in school. So, this plan to revise school lunches in the U.S. is actually backfiring in many situations because tasty, healthy options are scarce.

    There is more waste. And if there isn’t more waste the kids just don’t take items that they don’t want. My daughter does buy lunch on occasion and if she sees pre-packaged tasteless apples, she just won’t touch them. So much for her fruit/veggie serving. If you don’t give children interesting and delicious school lunch options, they just won’t eat it…and save their appetite for something better that comes along later in the day.

    Vive la France!

    • mbrighton October 20, 2012 at 18:55 #

      Hi Lady in Red, I didn’t realize the changes that are happening in your child’s school and in other schools around America. While changes in the school lunch program are necessary, I hope there is room to adapt to issues that arise in the future: taste and waste. Your comments are always welcomed, you have a good outlook on what is happening! Your daughter is lucky to have you prepare her school lunch picnic on a daily basis. And for the kids who need to eat in the school lunch program, hopefully there will be an improvement in taste and less waste in the future!

  4. Flo October 17, 2012 at 13:13 #

    WOW, I would like to go to have lunch in that school! The menu is pretty elaborated and I guess that it is thanks to “semaine du gout” ( “Tasty week”, ha, ha, ha,) .I do agree with you Mary that French kids eat better balanced lunch than the Americans. When we were in Houston, my kids refused to eat pizzas and macaroni cheese almost everyday. So they had their lunch boxes. Thanks and bravo for your posts.

    • mbrighton October 20, 2012 at 18:57 #

      Hi Flo, I really believe Pau school district does a good job to provide creative and tasty menus to the young Paloise crowd.
      Thanks very much for your support and comment,


  1. Suzanne Saxe-R, Ed.D - October 17, 2012

    RT @mbrighton66 French School Gourmet Lunches: Even Jamie Oliver Couldn’t Do Better: Why not combine taste and h…

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

Subscribe without commenting

free tracking