Thursday, March 29, 2012

School Food in France and Bringing up Bebe Book Review

While we in America argue whether to include "pink slime" in our beef products, the French are preparing truly farm-fresh organic produce for their children with in-school chef's and a real kitchen.

They use real utensils and real plates (highly sustainable) and are served at their round tables to facilitate discussion.  And, they get adequate time to enjoy their food and socialize compared to the typical American school kids 20 minute lunch with which to scarf down whatever processed food he or she can.

I thought we were the country with the most resources?

I finished reading Pamela Druckerman's (She's a American raising her family is Paris) book, "Bringing Up Bebe", and was impressed with the level of service French parents receive when raising a child.  Particularly of interest was the three days of menu options Pamela shared in her book at the French daycare for her three-year-old.

She writes of the meals, "An in-house cook at each creche (day care)  prepares lunch from scratch each day.  A truck arrives several times a week with seasonal, fresh, sometimes even organic ingredients.  Aside from the occasional can of tomato paste, nothing is processed or precooked.  A few vegetables are frozen, but never precooked."

So here are the menus (served in four courses of salad, main meal, cheese and dessert) she observed.  And remember, this is a daycare/preschool:

Day 1 (Page 112):
Course 1:  Bright-red tomato salad in vinaigrette
Course 2:  Flaky white fish in a light butter sauce and a side dish of peas, carrots and onions
Course 3:  Crumbled blue cheese
Course 4:  Whole apples slices at the table

Day 2 (Page 112):
Course 1:  Hearts of palm and tomato salad
Course 2:  Sliced turkey with rice in a Provencal cream sauce
Course 3:  St. Nectaire cheese with a slice of fresh baguette
Course 4:  Fresh Kiwi

Day 3 (Page 204):
Course 1:  Shredded red cabbage salad and fromage blanc
Course 2:  White fish in dill sauce and a side of organic potatoes
Course 3:  Coulommiers cheese
Course 4:  Baked organic apple

The French have a commission where parents can provide meaningful input into their children's menu.  They stress visual and textural variety along with nutrition and suggest offerings such as mousse of sardines in cream sauce, duck mousse, spinach, green beans, smoked pork, monk fish, tuna fish, salmon, yogurt cake with carrots, etc.  The parent food meeting Pamela attended lasted more than two hours.

I found this documentary from CBS (below) that highlights some of the French school cooking.  They manage to do it for $2.50 per student, about what many of our schools pay for mostly processed trash.

So I wonder, what would our school lunch program look like if each school got to create its own menus with parent-driven input and the kid actually had the time to enjoy their meal and have conversation during their day?  Our kids deserve so much better than our schools are giving them.

As an additional resource, check out the movie "Food Beware:  The French Organic Revolution" on Netflix or buy at

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