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Felice

School lunches

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There’s an interesting article in the September 4 issue of the New Yorker by Burkhard Bilger titled The Lunchroom Rebellion, An haute-cuisine chef goes back to school. It tells the story of Anne Cooper, the new executive chef of Berkeley Public schools, and her enormous task of trying to change the way American school kids eat by ditching the nutritionally void industrial foods served in most cafeterias and replacing them with freshly prepared nutritious meals. Not an easy task by any means.

Cooper uses the French school system as one of the models for this approach and visits some of the cafeterias in the town of Challans in western France where children are served three-course meals with dishes like shredded beet salad, braised salmon and lentils, and a cheese course. The cost of the French lunch with labor included comes to about 8$, with the children paying 2$, which according to the article is 3 times as much as is spent in the US.

In France they are thinking about school lunches as well as kids get back to school, and this week, as John already mentioned in the Digest, saw the release of Cantines a collection of classic cafeteria recipes like petit salé aux lentilles, céleri rémoulade, and hachis parmentier which have been revamped by some of the best French chefs, like Alain Passard, David Zudas and Pierre Gagnaire. It’s interesting to see how different the French approach to school lunch is.

All I remember from school lunch was really bad pizza and tater tots. Beurk!

Unfortunately the New Yorker article isn’t online, yet, and I don’t know that it will be.


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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There’s an interesting article in the September 4 issue of the New Yorker by Burkhard Bilger titled The Lunchroom Rebellion, An haute-cuisine chef goes back to school.  It tells the story of Anne Cooper, the new executive chef of Berkeley Public schools, and her enormous task of trying to change the way American school kids eat by ditching the nutritionally void industrial foods served in most cafeterias and replacing them with freshly prepared nutritious meals.  Not an easy task by any means. 

Thanks Felice.

I have a couple of thoughts. One is that Jamie Oliver, the terribly likeable "Naked" chef has been promoting healthy food in schools in the UK, so the problem of unappealing and processed food is not the USA's alone and perhaps we could learn a lesson from Oliver and the French. Two is that when I was a bit younger and backpacking through Europe, some of the most amazingly balanced, reasonable and tasty meals I had were available in Italian university and workers' mensa's (translation cafeteria) that apparently still exist. I also recall living in a dorm-like place in the 12th in the 1950's where the food again was quite respectable.

I wonder if some of our French members who have some experience with school food, including that featured in the Cantines book, know if today's school meals here are as good as my sagging memory would have them.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I wonder if some of our French members who have some experience with school food, including that featured in the Cantines book, know if today's school meals here are as good as my sagging memory would have them.

I will give you a Norman's answer. When I think back on my school days, I have great memories of some "cantines" and dreadful memories of others. Back in the 60's and 70's some school cantines were still pretty artisanal, with much of the food prepared on the spot from fresh ingredients. I have known such cantines, and the food could be quite nice there. But at some other schools the food was much less interesting. It was some kind of lottery. I don't think that has changed a lot, even though school cuisine, as part of the dreaded "cuisine pour collectivités", has become more industrialized. Still I hear some kids or teenagers say that their "cantine" is okay. My son Ben (20) recalls with irony the overcooked, tough "autruche aux marrons" (ostrich with chestnuts) that his school cantine chefs had decided to serve the day before Christmas vacation, about 8 or 9 years ago. He says it was a complete failure but a lot of fun to remember.

A quick look on school menus pasted outside schools in France (required by the law) or seen on the Internet seems to indicate that, if things are not perfect, at least there is an effort towards quality and variety.

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My son Ben (20) recalls with irony the overcooked, tough "autruche aux marrons" (ostrich with chestnuts) that his school cantine chefs had decided to serve the day before Christmas vacation, about 8 or 9 years ago. He says it was a complete failure but a lot of fun to remember.

Wow, Ostrich with chestnuts is definitely not something you'd see in American public schools. Thank you for your insight on this Pitipois, it's very interesting.

From the article I gathered that students in France are not offered a large selection and pretty much eat what's being served that day, so on Tuesday you might have ravioli, Mondays might be hachis parmentier, etc. Is this correct?


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From the article I gathered that students in France are not offered a large selection and pretty much eat what's being served that day, so on Tuesday you might have ravioli, Mondays might be hachis parmentier, etc.  Is this correct?

I don't think that kind of repetitive fare is common anymore. Take a look here or here at some examples of school menus. The selection is not very large, but not that narrow either.

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From the article I gathered that students in France are not offered a large selection and pretty much eat what's being served that day, so on Tuesday you might have ravioli, Mondays might be hachis parmentier, etc.  Is this correct?

I don't think that kind of repetitive fare is common anymore. Take a look here or here at some examples of school menus. The selection is not very large, but not that narrow either.

Oh now you've open a whole new horizon for me. What, for instance, would the barbeque sauce be with the chicken.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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The cantine at my lycee in Deauville was excellent: like the author of the article in The New Yorker, I found the food far and away the most interesting thing there (well, after the boys, I suppose). Since I wasn't officially getting credit for anything other than French I was free to skip school, either reading in the library (I appeared to be the only student that had ever crossed its threshold) or walking on the beach and town, drinking limonade or hot tea.

Recent experiences (over several years) at one of the branches of the university mensa in Urbino (in Le Marche, in Italy) not nearly so great, though edible. Clearly lots of frozen items used, etc.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Sounds laudable, but I wonder if a haute-cuisine chef can be a good dietitian. The Japanese school lunch system is rigorous; a monthly menu is established by a dietitian.

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The cost of the French lunch with labor included comes to about 8$, with the children paying 2$, which according to the article is 3 times as much as is spent in the US. 
I wonder, how does that compare to the costs of the average American school lunch program? No numbers at my fingertips but $8 seems high.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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The cost of the French lunch with labor included comes to about 8$, with the children paying 2$, which according to the article is 3 times as much as is spent in the US. 
I wonder, how does that compare to the costs of the average American school lunch program? No numbers at my fingertips but $8 seems high.

That's a point made in the article. I don't have it to hand at the moment, but I believe that Cooper was working with a budget of around $3 per student. (That may even be $3 for breakfast and lunch; either way, it severely restricts what she can do.)

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The cost of the French lunch with labor included comes to about 8$, with the children paying 2$, which according to the article is 3 times as much as is spent in the US. 
I wonder, how does that compare to the costs of the average American school lunch program? No numbers at my fingertips but $8 seems high.

That's a point made in the article. I don't have it to hand at the moment, but I believe that Cooper was working with a budget of around $3 per student. (That may even be $3 for breakfast and lunch; either way, it severely restricts what she can do.)

I misplaced my New Yorker (just moved) but had that flagged to read. I suspected that food/labor costs here would be much much lower. I imagine the scale of school lunch programs here would create their own challenges. Does France have a program for free and reduced-price meals?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I found the New Yorker article by Burkhard Bilger HERE on the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Website.


Edited by Felice (log)

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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