France to launch free school breakfasts in fight against poverty

France to launch free school breakfasts in fight against poverty
File photo: AFP
The French government is set to introduce free school breakfasts for 100,000 children in disadvantaged areas across France, with an investment of six million euros.
The move, which is part of President Emmanuel Macron's flagship poverty plan, was announced on Tuesday morning by the country's Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and junior minister for health Christelle Dubos.
The measure is set to be introduced from September when French children go back to school after the long summer holiday. 
The idea is to make sure children are not starting the school day hungry, “enabling them to stay focused on their work throughout the morning, giving them the best chance of learning”, the ministers explained. 
“This measure contributes to minimising inequalities from an early age,” they said. 
The initiative has already been introduced in schools in Amiens and Lille in the north of France, the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, Montpellier and Toulouse in the south, Nantes in the west, Reims in the north east, and Versailles in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France. 
The two ministers announced that it will be “applied to the whole of the French territory in September” and in the long term, “100,000 children in priority areas” will benefit.
To benefit from the scheme, schools belonging to a priority education network known as an REP must volunteer to take part, and schools located in priority areas of major cities or certain rural areas where “a social need has been identified” can also apply. 
From 2020, the budget will rise to 12 million euros to cover the measure for the year. 
The ministers said the breakfasts should be “balanced and good quality”. 
Macron's €8.5 billion poverty plan also includes creating more creches and subsidised school lunches priced at one euro. 
There is an urgent need to tackle poverty in France, which spends more on social benefits than any other country in Europe and yet nine million people live below the poverty line, surviving on around €1,000 ($1,160) a month.
For more on what else the president's poverty plan includes, read our summary here
French words to know
priority area – un territoire prioritaire
an empty stomach – un ventre vide
inequalities – des inégalités
a social need – un besoin sociale

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