Notes from France: A School Lunch We’d All Enjoy

April 26, 2007

by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

Jean is attending the 2007 International Exchange Forum on Children, Obesity, Food Choice and the Environment in the Loire Valley of France. Her entries will be posted throughout the week.

Probably the best way to share with you what I’ve learned about school food in France is to start with the school lunch we ate Thursday:

Menu du College Milcendeau, Challans

Salad of butter lettuce with smoked duck
Tomato and fresh mozzarella salad
Smoked salmon with asparagus and creme fraiche
Roasted chicken with roasted root vegetables and roasted potatoes
Apples with sabyon
Fresh strawberries
Goat cheese
French bread
Water

Challons_school_lunch

A little bit of background about the ingredients and their preparation. The butter lettuce was grown by a local farmer, the strawberries were just as beautiful as those that we had with our dinner the night before and most likely were grown in the south of France, the chicken (also grown locally) was roasted whole.

And, this wonderful meal was not served in plastic airline-like containers, but on REAL plates with real cutlery and glassware. And, the plates were warmed in a plate warmer!

Needless to say, the food we ate was absolutely delicious!

OK, not everything about this meal was typical. Usually there is only one salad — the “apples with sabyon” was something special, and they don’t have strawberries every day.

But every day the food is cooked fresh, on-site, right before it is served.

View_from_challons_2
We also got to peek into the kitchens — nothing like any I have seen before during my school travels. There were separate walk-ins for the meat, the dairy products and the vegetables. Did I mention that there was mache in the veggie walk-in?

So who cooks this amazing school food? Trained chefs! We learned that every school has a chef.

Every two weeks, students get to weigh in on the school food program. According to the principal, Mme. Roux, students take note of everything. She knew that they needed to change things up a bit when she heard one student say, “Today the food is not smiley enough, it’s not reaching out to us.”

If my son had a meal like I ate yesterday, I would no longer pack his lunch; he would eat a school lunch every day.