McDs Fathers Day Sandwich - © 2017 McDonalds

COVID-19: Reveals Opulence In French School Lunches

There’s been an ongoing, almost universal battle between parents, school boards, dietitians and students over the quality and quantity of food in school-prepared lunches for kids. The issues usually pivot on quality and quantity of food being offered kids. But not necessarily in France…


Everybody knows the French are famously picky about their food. If you thought that was just a stereotype, think again. Parents and others are up in arms over recent proposed changes in the school lunch regime in Lyons, France, self-proclaimed centre for great food within an international centre for great food.

Anybody with kids knows what the average school lunch in North America consists of. It differs vastly from city to city, one part of the country to another. But get a load of what the kids are used to in Lyons: A ‘salad starter’ is followed by some sort of animal protein course (cheese or yogurt, for example), and the meal is topped off with a dessert (we’re in France, folks; use your imagination!). It’s the main course that will amaze you.

The main event

The kids always get something plated, with veggies and a high-end meat component – usually beef or chicken, with what’s described in a recent Associated Press story as, ‘a rich sauce’.

The story indicates that even designated ‘meatless’ meals include some form of animal protein: “…fish on Monday and Friday and eggs – either as omelettes or hard boiled with a creamy sauce – on other days.”

It must be good to be a kid in Lyons…

Change in plans

But now, The City of Lyons has started serving meatless meals exclusively every day; since the kids came back from school holidays this week.

According to an AP story, Lyons City Hall claims, “[…] a meatless four-course meal will be quicker and easier to serve to children who, because of the coronavirus pandemic, must be kept apart during lunch to avoid infections.”

Education officials say they have just two hours to feed 29,000 children, without throwing their daily timetables all out of whack. Also, they note, meat-free menus, “suit all children, including those who habitually don’t eat meats for religious, dietary or other reasons.”

The backlash

Farmers drove their tractors through the main streets of Lyons in protest. Protest banners read: “Stopping meat is a guarantee of weakness against coronaviruses to come.” I don’t know how true that is. But it’s the farmers’ position, anyway.

French government Agricultural Minister accused school officials of, “putting ideology in our children’s plates.” He went on to say, “The measure would penalize children from poorer families who might not be able to eat meat outside of school. […] From a nutritional point of view, it is absurd to stop serving meat. From a social point of view, it is shameful.”

You’d almost think it was an election year in France! As a matter of fact, there’s one scheduled for later this year.

My take

Some questions:

What does it cost to serve those ‘normal’ 4-course lunches to the kids in Lyons’ schools?

If there are still kids whose families are so poor that they can’t afford to serve meat at home, why are the Lyonnaise fighting about school lunches? There are more important problems to be addressed.

Now that the Lyons school lunches have already become so politicised, how much farther do you think the issue can be inflated before the French go to the polls this fall?

Bottom line:

Never get between a french Parent and his/her food!

~ Maggie J.