Why French school dinners are going vegetarian - at least for one day a week

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Why French school dinners are going vegetarian - at least for one day a week
Courtonne-la-Meurdrac school in Normandy, where the menu is entirely organic. Photo: AFP

French school children will be going veggie - at least for one day a week - under new rules on school meals.


Part of an agricultural law passed back in 2018 comes in to force this term, and requires all French schools to offer at least one fully vegetarian lunch per week.

The agricultural law known as the loi Egalim was passed back in October 2018 and contained a package of measures, including one that required all schools to offer at least one lunch a week that contains no meat or fish. It comes in to effect from November 1st, and schools are being warned to get ready.

READ ALSO Do French schoolkids get the best lunches in the world?

Environmental charities say the veggie lunches should be offered more than once a week. Photo: AFP

Greenpeace spokesman Laure Ducos said: "There has been very little information circulated from the Ministry and there has been no decree.

"There are therefore some cities that believe that it is not mandatory because there has not been a decree, but that is not true: the law has passed and it is therefore important to recall these obligations."

The environmental charity is offering information and support to local authorities who may need it and is one of many groups who are calling for schools to go further than the one-a-week minimum.

Greenpeace has joined the French Vegetarian Association and the parents' association Fédération des Conseils de Parents d'Elèves (FCPE).

"It is also the school's role to teach students to eat less meat for their health," Rodrigo Arenas, president of the FCPE, told BFMTV.

French school lunches consist of rather more than a soggy sandwich or some chips and are widely considered to be among the best in the world.

A sample menu from a French school. Photo: Sam Goff

A French school lunch generally consists of a salad or vegetable based starter, a hot main meal such as spaghetti bolognase, roast veal with vegetables or baked fish with a parsley butter, followed by yohgurt, fruit or cheese.

Many schools do their best to include as many locally sourced and organic ingredients as possible, and parents have high standards over what constitutes a proper lunch.

Parents at a school in Paris' 18th arrondissement recently complained to local authorities after the school served a 'picnic menu' which included pre-packed sandwiches and tomatoes imported from Spain.

The school apologised and said the exceptional menu was due to a public holiday falling on a Thursday, which created logistical issues for the kitchen.

France's Ministry of Education states that schools must offer menus "adapted to the nutritional needs of the children" which "offer four or five dishes for each lunch or dinner, which may include a main dish with a garnish, and a dairy product" and "make portions of suitable size available". 

By 2022 meals must include at least 50 percent of products from sustainable sources and 20 percent of products to be certified organic.





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