school

French Schools Teach Kids How To Eat Instead Of Blaming Moms For Making Them Fat

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school-lunch-trayIn France, a school day means that children will be sitting down to a healthy, three-course hot lunch. Schoolkids as young as three are expected to eat the same meals as adults, and lunch is treated like an important social occasion, too, not just a source of calories. Meanwhile, in hundreds of school districts across the United States that are dropping the federal school lunch program, students are going to be eating curly fries with a side of waffle fries. Students (and their parents) in France are lucky to have the social support needed to provide for teaching them about nutrition and healthy eating; here in the USA, on the other hand, our limited options see kids trying to make it through a school day on a pile of junk food. And then we’ll probably blame the kids’ parents for them being fat, too.

Discussions of French school lunch fare usually manage to squeeze in a bit of bragging about how the French have the lowest obesity rates in the OECD, but to me, what’s far more important than some prudish waist-measuring is the fact that students in France are learning how to eat and enjoy foods that aren’t deep-fried or smothered in cheese. Not that deep-fried, cheese-smothered foods can’t have any place in a kid’s diet (they certainly have one in mine), but teaching kids about enjoying treats in moderation is a pretty important lesson. Giving them an hour or two to slowly enjoy lunch and then have time to walk and chat with friends afterwards for a little exercise before getting back to class is also a huge part of the French system (and is a noticeable contrast to the 15 minutes of recess a lot of American students feel lucky to get).

American students, in contrast, are expected to get to the cafeteria, buy food, eat, and get back to class in 20 to 30 minutes. That’s probably not time to take a post-lunch stroll. If the school is on the federal lunch program, offerings are limited by rules about sodium, fat, and calorie content; which might mean limitations on flavor, too. A French-style meal of sauteed cauliflower in cheese doesn’t sound quite as appealing with low-sodium cheese and vegetable oil instead of butter.

Plus, American students, whose lunch options are often limited to begin with and who haven’t grown up with the expectation that they’re damn well going to eat the nutritious food that’s put in front of them, are likely to reject school lunches and hit vending machines instead. That’s another financial hit for school districts that have made food only to see it wind up in the garbage can. On the other hand, schools that have rejected the program aren’t as restricted in terms of flavors, which means they’re free to sell what students want to buy … which usually means fries, chips, pizza, hot dogs.

The childhood obesity crisis hits the news cycle every few weeks, but what are children expected to do when their most important meal of the day is either deep-fried or flavorless and their only chance for exercise is a walk to the cafeteria and back? Schools are in a bind, students want junk food instead of limp, soggy kale, and somehow the childhood obesity “crisis” is because moms and dads are lazy, terrible people. How about a little social support à la française, and we can save the moral panic about fat kids until after we have a system in place to teach them how to eat healthy, nutritious food?

(Image: Mike Flippo/Shutterstock)

81 Comments

  1. leahdawn

    September 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Whatever happened to ye olde bagged lunch? Is it not cool for the kids to go to school toting leftovers and sammiches?
    Being an ignorant Canadian, I know you have programs that feed kids in schools who can’t afford to bring lunch (we don’t as far as I’m aware, which is odd as we are usually a bit more socialist than the US. Many schools don’t sell food AT ALL, and bagged lunches are implicit.) I’m assuming that these are the programs in question?
    I guess what I’m saying is I’m more appalled that unhealthy lunch is being fed to children with no other resource than if bad lunch is being fed to kids who otherwise have resource and could easily bring their own celery sticks but for whatever reason parental units send them with money instead of healthy food.
    Somebody give me the deets!

    • Katherine Handcock

      September 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      Yeah, I was sort of thinking the same. Who we say is posing the problem here depends on whether we’re talking about kids who are being subsidized so they CAN eat at school. Because if Mom and/or Dad can afford lunch and know there’s nothing but junk at the cafeteria, they can still make healthy eating a priority at lunch time by having healthy options to choose from to bring from home. (One sneaky parent I know dealt with it by telling the kids that cafeteria lunches came from allowance, but she would buy ANYTHING healthy they wanted to bring from home. Didn’t take long for the kids to be willing to make fancy salads etc. at home when they realized how little the allowance would stretch!)

      Also, I’d be curious to know what’s actually on offer, both for the meal and additional flavouring. I’m sure they have to be careful what spices etc. they use due to allergy concerns, but if they then have sauces/garnishes/etc. available for kids to add, that can resolve a lot of the flavour issue pretty quickly.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Generally, school lunches aren’t great. In 1st grade, my daughter was served 3 fried mozzarella sticks (protein), a cup of marinara sauce for dipping, a side of veggies, a side of fruit, and milk.

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Fruit OTHER THAN the marinara sauce?! #lapofluxury

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Canned peaches, but yeah. #werefancy

    • brebay

      September 3, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      Ketchup is veggies, my friend. – St. Ronnie

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      My favorite is when those frozen juice pops are the “fruit”. Man, sugar water with Natural Raspberry Flavoring doesn’t even come from the same planet as fruit!

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Gut there is a picture of fruit right on the wrapper! Also how will the children get their daily serving of frozen HFCS if they aren’t served the fruiitsicles?

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      I love the allowance plan! That’s genius. *makes notes for several years from now when the kids go to school*

      I personally have never seen much offered in the way of garnishes beyond ketchup and maybe mustard/mayo in the schools where I’ve worked/student taught/done observations, but it’s nice to think that might be out there somewhere. Besides the price concern, I wonder if the sauces or whatever might tip meals over the federal calorie limits if applied and cause the school to get dinged on federal funding? hmm.

    • Obladi Oblada

      September 3, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      Sauces are a biggie. They can definitely tip the scales in terms of sodium, sugar and calories. I have to be very strict when doling those out. We have a standard menu to go by with them.

    • Katherine Handcock

      September 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      What about stuff like red pepper flakes and so on? Or are there concerns about messes or cross contamination with those?

      Honestly, I feel for people who have to design these menus. They have to meet so many requirements, plus they have to be made in a short span of time for a lot of kids. It’s not a recipe for delicious food.

    • Obladi Oblada

      September 3, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      We do the best we can with what we can afford that fits into the guidelines. For example, we started serving chicken tenders breaded with panko breading this year. We had the option of the processed chicken tender or a whole muscle one for about the same price. We had to go with the processed one to make the serving sizes uniform. Not what we wanted to do, but we really felt we had no choice.
      We season as much as we can without added salt and sugar. Onions, cinnamon, etc. but again we are limited by budget constraints and what will go over well. We can make the healthiest food in the freakin’ country and it won’t matter if the kids don’t eat it. Kids not eating at school = lower budgets = payroll hours cut = job loss.

    • Katherine Handcock

      September 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      See, as soon as you have to pick the processed one for serving size uniformity, even though the price is almost the same, you can tell something’s not working right. I understand the reasoning, just not what it decisions it ends up requiring! I hope they manage to figure out a better set of regulations.

    • Obladi Oblada

      September 4, 2014 at 11:50 am

      We wanted to get the whole muscle chicken but knew that if we were caught giving more to this kid than the other, we’d have been strung up.
      The thing that people need to remember is that we don’t like it any more than you do. We just have a job to do and do it the best we can.

    • allisonjayne

      September 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I’m a canadian wondering about this as well. I almost always brought my lunch from home, and most of my friends did as well. Granted, it was usually a bologna and cheese sandwich with a fruit snack pack for dessert, but yeah, my elementary school didn’t sell food and my high school cafeteria basically just sold fries, jamaican beef patties and cookies.

    • Jessifer

      September 3, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      My high school cafeteria was awesome. It was run by a local catering company that would prepare both a “healthy” home-cooked option and an “unhealthy” option like fries, chicken fingers, pizza rolls, etc… But even so, the fries were fresh-cut, not frozen, so the quality was there and the prices were affordable. Then the school board outsourced to a large corporate school cafeteria supplier and the quality went downhill, prices went way up. No one ate there anymore. There were no fast-food places closeby so if we didn’t bring a lunch, we’d usually end up eating at a nearby local diner because it was the same price and much better.

    • rockmonster

      September 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      It’s probably due to food poisoning scares.

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      I don’t really think schools are like, evil and out to get us…it just ends up working out that way. Their goal for lunch is to provide a very highly caloric meal (in case that’s the only meal the kid gets all day) and a very cheap meal because…it’s school and schools are poor. Unfortunately the cheapest food is subsidized food, so that’s what they offer. Lots of schools also get tons of money for having soda/junk food machines–I haven’t figured that one out yet, but I can see why a school desperate for funding might allow it if it means they can keep their art program or whatever. Basically it’s a huge problem that would require an entire overhaul of the way school lunch is funded and the way our government subsidizes food.

      This sure isn’t a very well thought-out comment so I hope someone more knowledgeable pops in, lol.

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      There’s actually a strict calorie maximum on lunches; 650 is the top limit for elementary schoolers, and 850 for high schoolers. (I’m not sure how some meals come in under that limit … I remember a meal I bought when I was teaching that featured a ham slice under like three inches of grease. And 850 is probably more than some kids need, but less than others do, because as it turns out, kids do not come one-size-fits-all. :/

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Interesting! Most of my understanding of school lunches comes from Ann Cooper, so it’s probably dated. I do think 850 calories for lunch is quite a bit for most students, though.

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      It does seem like a lot, although for a lot of low income students it may be the main source of calories for the day. Not sure what to do about making more calories available to those who need them without causing a lot of wastage the rest of the time, though – it’s not like you can serve school-agers buffet style without like 99.9% of it ending up on the ground/in the garbage, I imagine.

      Weirdly, I also remember almost always finding myself ravenous by the time I got home from work on the days when I would forget my lunch and had to buy one in the school cafeteria. Must be something to do with the protein/fat/carb balance, I guess?? That or my brain just found the sawdust-texture pizza crust so unsatisfying that it was like MORE FOOD NOWWWW.

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      It is definitely a depressing, complex problem that I wish I knew more about. There just doesn’t seem to be any easy solution.

      I’m the same way any time I eat junk food. I read some book a while back about the paleo diet and the author said we react that way because our bodies know we didn’t actually get any nutrients…and our brains want more because junk food is engineered to trigger an urge to stock up while the gettin’s good? Because sugar is scarce in nature? I should really stop talking about things I don’t understand, hahaha.

    • Spongeworthy

      September 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I read an article in the NY Times a while ago, about the “science” of engineering junk food. It was really interesting. It’s a long read, but worth it if it’s something you’re interested in.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%222%22%3A%22RI%3A17%22}&_r=0

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      ty!!

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Lunch programs are available for free or reduced rates to students from low income; the same food is also available at full cost to the rest of the school. Bagged lunches are allowed, but for some kids, there just aren’t any leftovers to bring, or parents are too busy working two or three shifts to put together a meal in the first place. 🙁

    • Lilly

      September 3, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Canada is one of the only developed countries that does not offer a school lunch program — it is rather weird given our more socialist tendencies.
      I do know that when there have been suggestions it is basically really expensive to instigate — while high schools have cafeterias almost no middle schools and elementary schools have the facilities to make, serve & store food for lunches.
      The amount of space and renovations that would be needed for each school far exceeds any desire to implement it — a kind of “it is working now why change it” approach. As a comparison Ontario had issues adapting full-day kindergarten and that was adding one or two classrooms, adding a full commercial grade kitchen and for many schools a cafeteria seems a bit out of reach.

      I think then the general policy decision has been to focus on helping support families feed better at home. Whether this is working or being done is up for serious debate — for First Nations a report just came out that said Inuit children in Northern Quebec are smaller then average due to food supply issues.

    • C.J.

      September 4, 2014 at 9:25 am

      I would like to see more support for feeding families at home if they need it but I like that we don’t have lunches served at school. As much as I hate making school lunches at least I know what they ate eating. My kids bring a fruit, a veggi, one unhealthy snack and their main part of their lunch. They often bring soup, chicken wraps or leftovers. There are kids that bring all junk but at least the junk isn’t being served at school.

    • K.

      September 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      We do have free-and-reduced cost lunch here in the US. Schools/kids have to qualify for that. There are guidelines as to what a lunch needs to have (calorie count, and the types of food groups represented), but there are many problems. For one, the cost has to be kept low (I forget what it is, but it’s insane–like less than a dollar or something per meal) and most of it comes packaged because it’s easier to prepare, portion, freeze, and keep sanitary. But you have many many other issues–for example, french fries are vegetables. And we also allow kids to have flavored milk because supposedly, “Kids need dairy and they won’t drink regular milk.” Not sure if giving them what is essentially melted ice-cream is the best idea for getting them to eat dairy.

      And the dependency on school lunch is often severe–my husband taught in Washington Heights, which is a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx, NY, and he knew of many kids who would stock up on Friday afternoons because they weren’t going to get any food until Monday morning. And other kids who would deliberately act out so that they could go to Bellevue (the public mental hospital) for the purpose of getting a hot meal. There are also lots of non-profit organizations that operate during the summers to get food to kids who are on free/reduced lunch programs and don’t have the possibility of enrolling in summer school.

    • Garavriel

      September 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      In one of the schools the students I worked with come from, 70% of students are on the free or reduced price lunch program.

    • Rachel Sea

      September 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      More than 40% of kids qualify for free or reduced price lunch, so the quality of the food has repercussions for an enormous swath of the population. Add to that that a lot of schools don’t have good places for kids to store food, and you have the majority of kids reliant on these meals.

    • Colleen

      September 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

      As a Canadian, I can tell you that there are some schools across the country with breakfast and lunch programs, generally in low-income neighbourhoods and funded by grants (government, corporate, etc.). There definitely aren’t enough of them, and I can’t speak to the nutrient content, though some grant programs apparently have nutrient guidelines following the Food Guide.

  2. CC

    September 3, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Man, I remember being so jealous of French kids (in free, subsidized daycare!) when I read Bringing Up Bebe. Those kids eat better than I do.

    • Maria Guido

      September 3, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      I read that, too. I wanted to be like her so bad. haha

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      ME TOO. I was all, we could totally move to France! Right..? 🙁

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      ALLONS-Y

    • CC

      September 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      I don’t think they want us. I think they might actually hate us.

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      My (admittedly limited) European travels rate the French at only slightly less friendly to me and my spouse than the Italians. And they only got edged out because nowhere I stayed in France came to greet me at the door with a bowl of homemade gelato, lemon cake, and beer.

      … Hang out, I want to revise this plan. Let’s move to Italy instead.

    • Bethany Ramos

      September 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      I loooove that book.

  3. Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    September 3, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I WOULD LIKE TO SIGN UP FOR THE CURLY FRIES WITH WAFFLE FRIES MENU.

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      This was occasionally the menu Chez Aimee when I was pregnant.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 3, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      I had lots and lots of ice cream, and Big Macs, and later on, I developed a weird protein bar addiction. Thank god for Costco!

      ETA: Not sure why I gained so much weight….

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      They wanted me to gain more weight with the twins than I was at first and I so did my due, ice-cream-drenched diligence. And then some. ooops.

    • scooby23

      September 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      Mmmmm, getting hungry just thinking about it.

  4. Jessifer

    September 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    In order to have a “little social support à la française”, one has to be willing to pay the appropriate taxes for it. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are not on board with this.

    • Aimee

      September 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Paying taxes isn’t fun, but yelling at families because ~childhood obesity~ sure is!

    • Lilly

      September 3, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      I have seen a few articles with pictures of school lunches around the world — it is pretty interesting to see the differences between countries with a more socialist bent and others that either don’t have money or choose not to spend it on this

      here is one:
      http://www.businessinsider.com/school-lunches-around-the-world-2014-5?op=1

    • Jessifer

      September 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      The Cuba one was interesting. My husband grew up there and was in elementary school after the collapse of the soviet union, and from the way he tells it, they had some sad, sad lunches back then. He was hungry all. day. long. It’s a bit better now but there are obviously differences between the capital and the countryside. My husband’s cousin was 12 years old attending one such school and all they’d give the kids to eat is a bun with a very thin slice of ham in the middle, and a can of soda. He was a tall kid for his age, the size of an adult male, and really needed more nourishment than that. However, the parents were not allowed to pack a lunch for them (not that most could afford it), because if some have “special lunches” and others don’t, it creates inequalities. But the poor kid was starving all day long, so between that and the blistering heat with no AC in the classroom, he couldn’t concentrate on anything at all.

    • K.

      September 3, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Yes, but we could ALSO do things like mandate that to fulfill the “fruit and vegetable” requirements, the fruit and vegetable have to be unprocessed and without added sugar (or something similar) so that ketchup and french fries and canned peaches in syrup don’t count as vegetables and fruit, respectively.

    • SunnyD847

      September 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      The English schools I went to had great school lunches and it was mandatory that you eat the school lunch. Bagged lunches were forbidden. I know only one girl got to bring her lunch because of religious observance and I managed to get a dispensation on liver days after vomiting copiously in the cafeteria 🙂

      We ate at tables of 6-8 with real plates and cutlery and our teachers corrected our table manners and checked what we’d eaten before we could go up for “afters” (dessert.)

    • Rose White

      September 3, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      I wish people still DINED. I often have to ask for a knife at a restaurant because since so many people cannot properly cut their food, restaurants are now ceasing to include a knife with the silverware. Children should sit down to a proper meal eaten off a plate instead of a tray, with their drink served in a real glass, and with a fork AND a knife. They should be given plenty of time to eat it and the meal should be real food.

      I bet everything that kids who were treated like this would behave a lot better during the school day as well. We treat our children with so little respect and decency when it comes to mealtimes.

    • MysteryDevil

      September 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      I’ve always found the American school lunch system odd. Why do kids need a hot lunch?? As an Aussie, I grew up taking my homemade lunch to school. We had a canteen for lunch orders and snacks but it just wasn’t very busy. I was only allowed a lunch order once a month! Now my 10yo son is at a school that doesn’t have a canteen. He takes a sandwich, 2 pieces of fruit and a treat, his school only allows water to drink. There’s lunch orders available but only on a Monday and they come from the local bakery, my son always chooses the salad roll. There’s also a program called Grow it, Make it, Bake it, where the kids grow their own fruit and vegetables and once a fortnight, some mums make a healthy treat from it for a gold coin donation.

  5. Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    September 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    As far as kids not buying what they don’t like – my sister lived exclusively off cheese fries and fried chicken patty sandwiches with more cheese. Processed chicken and processed cheese foods aren’t nutritious, but they are tasty and affordable for kids. As long as schools continue to have them on the menu, that is what most kids are going to eat, unless they’ve been taught differently at home (and even then, who are we kidding?). I hate to be THAT PERSON, but unless the only options are nutritious ones, most kids are going to go right for the junk (delicious, delicious junk).

    • Spongeworthy

      September 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      I remember being in junior high and bringing money to school to buy my lunch. I’d buy a soft pretzel, an ice cream sandwich, and a soda. Nutritious! And I came from a home where my mom cooked 95% of our meals from scratch, we ate very healthy meals, etc. I played sports so I guess that at least took care of the calories, but yea, I grew up in a house full of healthy food and still bought the garbage. And I love healthy food now, and cook most of our meals from scratch. But I still wouldn’t turn down free Pringles.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Yep. Most kids will default to junk which is why I am the mean mom who thinks they ought to get rid of it completely. It seems harsh but kids would be exposed to (and have to eat, our of necessity) healthy foods because that’s all they’d have. #noroomfornegotiations

    • Kathryn Mackenzie

      September 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      For me it was buying a buttered roll and a bag chicken flavoured potato chips, to make a chip roll.
      If I was feeling fancy, I’d buy a turkey roll, and add burger rings. Picture is in case they are not a world-wide snack, so I don’t confuse people.

    • K.

      September 3, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      I’m with you. I’m that person that thinks Americans are far too coddling of their children when it comes to eating. Really. Kids don’t need special foods–sure, they may LIKE fish sticks and pudding snacks, just like most people like things deep fried and loaded with sugar, but they don’t NEED it–they are not going to starve themselves in the absence of pizza.

      Generally, if you put it in front of them and don’t offer any other options, they’ll deal with it. Case in point: I bet that if you took away strawberry and chocolate milk, kids would still drink regular milk anyway.

    • Ms.Anne'sNotoriousLadygarden

      September 3, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      In general I agree with you, but I still remember the nasty regular milk at my elementary/high schools (and I’ve been out of school for over 20 years). It usually sat out in milk crates for 30-60 minutes before we got to it and was room temperature and disgusting. I would definitely just go thirsty rather than drink that– even today I don’t like to drink milk and I suspect that has a lot to do with it. At least the chocolate flavor masked that bad milk taste enough to drink it. Ick.

  6. chill

    September 3, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Yet, if you dare mandate that public schools feed healthy food, SOME (not naming names here, but you know who they are) will sue for the “right” to continue feeding the same crap they have been. Ridiculous.

    p.s. We just moved to Spain for a 3 year stint. In the U.S., I made my kids lunches for years and years (with the exception of an occasional school-bought lunch), but here I insisted they eat lunch at school, so we are trying it for a term. The menu looks awesome and I’m really excited about it. Will keep you posted if it lives up to expectations, if anyone is interested.

    • brebay

      September 3, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      *cough* Kentucky *cough*

    • thebadlydrawnfox

      September 4, 2014 at 3:50 am

      There was a big drive for healthy food in the UK a few years ago, and at one school where the only options were healthy, parents were passing fast food through the railings to their kids. Because how dare you tell them how to feed their kids!

    • BexleyS

      September 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      The food in schools is so much better now though thanks to Jamie Oliver. There is still a long way to go (I would very rarely eat the overcooked crap they serve up) but the kids do have to eat some vegetables every day. They are exposed to a much wider variety of food than they once were. Admittedly I work in a primary school so have no idea of the success of the food in high schools but I know that as a teenager if ate chips, cheese and gravy 5 days a week for 5 years!!! I wouldn’t have been happy about the change but I know for certain my mum wouldn’t have even thought about pushing junk food through the fence. She would have told me to eat my greens and quit whining 😀

  7. anonymous

    September 3, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Parents should be the ones teaching their kids how to eat. At the end of the day, your kids are your responsibility, not the school’s.

    • brebay

      September 3, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      The sex ed argument again? If you were smart enough to pick good parents, good on ya, if you have crappy parents, fuck off, you don’t deserve to learn how to not get an STD or to eat real food unless your parents decide you get to.

    • Picklejar

      September 4, 2014 at 4:18 am

      Yes – but kids are in school for at least 5 meals a week (some more, as they are there for a breakfast program, as well). Doesn’t the school have some responsibility to partner with parents in this?

    • alexesq33

      September 4, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Problem is also – a kid whose friends are all getting French fries and cokes for lunch – are they really going to get baked potato and a salad? Even if it’s an option? And don’t get me started on the QUALITY of school foods – not sure if this is changed in the past 15 years or so, but ours was AWFUL grade meats and nasty mayo-swilled salads and limp lettuce, etc.

  8. ChickenKira

    September 3, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    We don’t do school lunches the way other countries do in Australia. Some schools have tuckshops where you can buy your lunch, some every day (mostly high schools) and some once a week (mostly primary schools) but it’s not the same deal and not taxpayer funded (doesn’t stop some schools from serving junk though).

    BabyChicken goes to a daycare center where they do some beautiful hot lunches, I wish they packed bags for the parents to take with this. She is there three days a week and this week she has had roast beef with sweet potato, peas and carrots, moroccan fish tagine, and pork and snow pea stir fry with brown rice. One of my questions upon seeing the menu when I did the walk-through of this place was “Do the kids eat all of this, as in, do you have problems with them refusing this food?” and the response was “Most of these kids have been here since the age of 1, they know no different”.

    What I can say on that is that it is entirely possible to get school kids to eat this food (program and funding willing), but the initial period of adjustment will be hard. You can’t take kids who have only known school lunches to be fried potato products and pizza-is-a-vegetable and then expect them to eat a proper meal without complaint, because it’s not normal for them, they have been taught that treat foods are everyday lunch foods. However, if these programs are stuck with for a decent period of time (I’m talking years here) and it becomes the norm, like it is in France, then kids will eat it.

    • Rose White

      September 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      I recall when I was in Paris seeing a child of about seven eating beef tartar with a knife and fork and drinking watered-down juice out of an actual glass. Kids will eat and dine in the way that they are raised too. American kids have shit eating habits and eat with plastic forks and off paper towels because that is the way WE raise them. I give my children whatever I am eating. There are not separate “kids’ menus” in my house.

    • NeonStarr

      September 4, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Its the same here (across the ditch) schools just have tuck shops, there was a big thing about them only serving crap and soft drinks. I think soft drinks might be banned now. Most kids just bring lunch from home (generally a sandwich or something)
      Glad we got like an hour or so for lunch, 20-30 minutes? Thats crazy, most of us played sport at lunch.

      As for the daycare, yet to experience that.

  9. Rose White

    September 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    I always thought that American school lunches should come with a little card that says, “We don’t give a shit about you.” At least it would be honest.

  10. Kitty

    September 3, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    This makes me nearly weak with envy. I naively assumed I’d just expose my kid early to healthy foods like we eat in our home, and then he’d learn to like them. He ate everything until he started getting the full meals at his daycare/preschool, in which all cereal is sugared, all the meat processed, every potato fried, every veg canned, and every fruit coated in syrup. Now age 4, he gorges himself at school and refuses to eat anything at home unless I’m serving something a la daycare. And then we have a lot of hangry tantrums later in the evening after he leaves the table without much dinner because I refuse to jump up and prepare an alternate dinner that is suited to his preferences. :/ Trying to promote healthy eating at home when it’s not supported by the schools really can affect home life, even beyond dinnertime.

  11. Mad Overlord

    September 4, 2014 at 1:18 am

    I don’t know why the French are always picked out for great school food. I attended school in France for a year and the lunch mainly consisted of half a chicken with a side of crisps. Or half a baguette filled with french fries. I can’t remember anything fancy or healthy about those school lunches. But my experience is more than fifteen years old, so maybe that changed. But what I think made lunch very different was that the teachers had lunch in the same room, being served the same food, but had red wine with it!

    • brebay

      September 4, 2014 at 7:28 am

      Baguette filled with french fries? You’ve just solved lunch for me!

    • alexesq33

      September 4, 2014 at 8:16 am

      brb getting a baguette stuffed with French fries.

    • Mad Overlord

      September 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      It’s called a “sandwich frites” in case you wondered…

    • alexesq33

      September 4, 2014 at 8:16 am

      I went to college in France (so admittedly could be more adult fare) but it was a very small business college and so had a small high school style cafeteria. You could have one “large plate” and 2 “small plates”. Large plate was the hot entrée – usually meat starch and veg. and the small plates were things like 1/2 avocado filled with balsamic vinaigrette, or a VERY SMALL wedge of brie. Then of course all the bread you wanted (which most French students only had one very small piece). And of course Pommes Frites were one of the starches!! 🙂

    • Kapibara-san

      September 4, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      My high school French class went to Lyon for one week, and when I ate at the high school there I thought it was nice, as they had many options, but not very healthy though. I remember eating French fries, which we never get at our school at home. My experience is of course limited, but I might brag a bit and say the Finnish school lunches are really good. The American school food looks like crap.

  12. Looby

    September 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    The crappy food for kids thing extends to “kids menus” which as far as I can see usually means fried chicken, corn dogs or a kid size burger. It really gets on my tits. and we usually end up either asking for a half portion of some real food or just feeding her off our plates.

  13. Heather Wilson

    September 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    My kids eat what we eat. Thankfully, the kids’ school does allow home lunches. Our daughter does eat the cafeteria food and our boys pack from home. I do know our daughter picks healthy items, as that is what she is used to from home. I do think it is difficult that lunch time is very short at school.

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