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The School Lunch

My kid is starting kindergarten / the real public school next Tuesday. Since we have seen both Michael Moore’s report on american and french school lunches and witnessed the menu at my son’s school, we have been thinking for quite a while how to get him to eat properly. Currently, I almost feel like I am setting up a prison contraband system.

Let's dig a bit

The basis on our elementary school logistics

I am talking about the elementary school with 5yo up to 10yo kids. Classes start at 7.40am and finish at 2.30pm. At that time, they either go home or go to an afterschool. Yes it is weird but not weirder than the french school that do not have class on wednesday afternoon. The overall schedule is weird but what is really interesting to me is that the kids have a short 30 min slot to go to the cafeteria, eat and go to their next class. For lunch, 2 options : they can either buy food at the cafeteria or bring their own.

We were not that motivated to prepare food everyday so even though Michael Moore's report and google’s results scared us, we considered the cafeteria. Small detail, we live in a great neighborhood - not the richest - but still a pretty good one.

The cafeteria - Is it a fast food class ?

Let me take you through my son’s school menu. Each meal is made of : a main dish among 4/5 options, up to 2 vegetables among 3 options, 1 fruit among 2 options and 1 milk among 4 options (yes 4).

Let’s take next Tuesday menu, the main dish options are :

  • A salad with turkey and cheese with crouton and garlic breadsticks

  • Taco Salad with Tostilos ® Chips (yes, it is the real brand… )

  • Cheeseburger on Bun &Kellogg's® Mini Rice Krispies Treat

  • Corn Dog Nuggets &Kellogg's® Mini Rice Krispies Treat

I wondered if it was something special for the Back to School day so I browsed a few weeks and overall, this is more or less the same every day, every week, every month and let me highlight a few other options :

  • Mama Rosa's® Personal Cheese Pizza

  • Mama Rosa's® Personal Pepperoni Pizza

  • Soy Butter & Jelly Sandwich

  • Spaghetti with Garlic Breadstick

I did not review the current french menus but I remember not having any of that. I had eventually fries as an option once a week and pizza once a… year… so yes, there are a few aspects I do not understand :

  • All the options are fast food type meals with chips, pizza, burgers etc : really ?

  • Some options are not even something that I would put on a lunch menu : soy butter and jelly sandwich ? Rice Krispies as a side ?

  • The use of branded food like the Kellogg’s or Tostilos : isn't it weird ?

Last detail : of course this is not free...I think it is in the $3 range per meal which is more or less the same than in France. Cost or price - subsidized or not - I do not know... but we are sure that we can provide our kid something way better than that for less.

Plan B - feed yourself your kid

So we put together the plan that a lot of parents take : figuring out a way to have your kid eat decent food everyday with the following constraintes :

  • The kid has to carry it in his bag with him in the morning

  • No microwave available

  • No fridge available

  • The kid has to figure it all out by himself

  • The kid has to like it

  • You have to be able to do it… everyday

So I browsed the internet, checked Pinterest, amazon, talked to friends and here is our strategy :

  • Logistics : a lunch bag that will contain a leak proofed bento lunchbox, a spoon and a fork. Thank you Amazon and Pinterest for the options and inspiration.

  • A ready to use list of menus so that we are not taken by surprise. Not that we want to provide organic food, gluten free, paleo, carb free food to our 5yo but just a decent normal meal with some variety (if you want the list, just let me know but this is pretty adapted to a french /spanish kid)

Hopefully the kid likes it...

So based on that

Michael Moore does not seem to have exaggerated. This is really sad and apparently 20 millions of these lunches are provided for free to kids who do not have any other options.

Michael Moore discovery of french cafeteria

The facts

Some potential improvements

Pictures of lunch in the USA and in France

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