Both my kids hate school lunches here. Lunch at the crèche was okay as far as I remember because they cooked everything on the premises and we were told exactly what they had and what they ate whether we had 3 hours to spare picking them up at the end of the day or exactly 2.5 minutes.
Those were the happy days of edible institutional food. These days, they get an industrial offering from some huge central kitchen and come home ravenous. Amazingly though, you can often read about fabulous French school meals and how expat parents are stunned at the varied menus each with three courses (plus apero, peanuts, wine, bread roll, digestif, coffee and mints...).
Where are these schools and colleges? I live in an affluent area and my kids eat exactly the same crap as the école/collège poubelle on the other side of town. The scandal of industrial school meals is not merely in my fevered militant foodie imagination. The M6 programme Envoyé Special did a report on it back in April. They were certainly not eulogising about three courses and an array of organic veggies.
What they found was a scandal that would suit Jamie Oliver's crusading spirit quite as much as the one he needed to influence UK school meals. ES found that meals are prepared 7 days in advance then frozen and then driven up to 600km to their final destination - a microwave oven in a school canteen. Fifty percent of school canteens are supplied by one huge company, and it spends 1€60 per meal on food.
In some cases, to increase profit margins, vegetables which they know kids hate, such as celery and cabbage, are included. You won't find a fresh vegetable or fresh meat anywhere on the menu - too perishable. Sauces are freeze-dried, burgers are 80% fat, fried eggs are frozen and yoghurts are at their limit of sell-by dates, if they're not already passed it.
No probs, you might think, your little darlings can take a packed lunch. No they can't. It is totally out of the question that kids take sarnies. They can go home, yes, fine if you're at home, not so fine if you're at work. Why the no sarnie rule I don't know. The kids couldn't possibly eat worse than the crap they get served on their plates. At a guess, it's probably in the industrial kitchen contract that forbids alternative sources of food. That and maybe schools get a cut of every lunch sold...
If you want to read some of the gushing reviews of French school lunches try these:
School Lunch Abroad
Idlewords although this one does date back to 2003...
BBC back in 2005 on a Parisian school
Where do these people send their kids to school? What is this myth of the fabulous French school lunch? I wish my kids, both in different schools, had such food on offer. I'm sure they do too!