boeuf bourguignon, fish fillets with ratatouille, lentilles and sausages, with fresh vegetables and fruits, the occasional desserts, etc, etc. Yes, children eat pizza and French fries... but not frequently (and way less frequently than I remember it). In short, the meals are balanced, healthy and affordable.
The price of lunch is calculated according to the parents' income and income taxes. BUT, unless your children go to a private school, even if your income is in the upper-income bracket, I don't think that the price of lunch is above 2 euros ($3). Taxes pay for the difference : yes that's what taxes are used for (among other things if France): making sure that children learn how to eat healthy food at school from very early on. It's a choice the French made for their children (and themselves: office cafeteria is generally very good as well).
So, when I got the lunch menu from my daughter's school, I was in shock! I'm still in shock even if "wholegrain" got into the menu! So much processed food! So much starch! So little variety (because I only printed the March menu but April looks awfully similar!!) The lack of variety of food is what struck me as the most unhealthy. Eating pizza once a week is not going to kill anybody! But eating pizza, hamburger, pasta and French fries one day after the other is not healthy. Désolée! I'm happy to read that the First Lady is taking this matter seriously because, let's face it, it's not helping American children to offer them that type of food one day after the other.Yes, I know, at least it's "food" for some children but I don't understand why, in the wealthiest country in the world, nothing better is offered to the next generation of Americans. I won't go into the details of agriculture subsidies, agro-business lobbying money and their consequences on the school lunch programs because it's complicated. However, from reading what some school districts have done, for instance, in Berkeley (see video) or New York, there is hope that more change is on its way.
In the meantime, I am packing my child's lunch everyday. Mostly leftovers from the night before together with fresh fruits. When I am out of leftovers, I pack her a cheese/ham sandwich. It's easy. It's cheaper than the price I would have to pay for her lunch option. More importantly, it's healthier. The time I spend making her lunch box in the morning (5 minutes) is an investment into her overall health and well-being. And this is priceless! So, what did your children eat in school today? My daughter had leftover home-made lasagna.
If you want to read an article about an American and her experience with school lunch in France, read this article from TIME : School Lunches in France: Nursery-School Gourmets.
If you want to hear more about the lunch programs in the US, I strongly advise you to listen to the following video.