Why We Should Model School Lunches After the French…

Estimates today put one in three American children in the category of overweight or obese. Given that children eat at least one (if not two) meals at school every day, school lunches provide a huge opportunity to improve the health of our children. Unfortunately, school lunch programs in our country are grossly underfunded and notoriously inadequate.

Modeling school lunches after countries without obesity epidemics might be a great place to begin. This is where the French come in. According to an article entitled, “What French Kids Eat For School Lunch (It Puts americans To Shame!” by Rebecca Plantier, here are some key differences in our school lunch programs, and why following the French’s lead could help usher our children into the path of  greater health.

Read the full article here:

According to this article, French children may have a health advantage because….

“There are many theories as to why the French, and French children in particular, do not suffer from weight problems, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension like their American counterparts. Eating moderate quantities of fresh and freshly prepared food at set times of the day is definitely one of the most convincing reasons why they stay lean. Daily exercise, in the form of three recess periods (two 15-minute and one 60-minute recess every day) and walking or biking to and from school, is another.”

Their school lunches are also prepared very differently from those served in American schools..

“All our fruits, vegetables, fish and meat are sourced locally, some of them from local farms,” according to Dany Cahuzac, the city counselor in charge of school matters, including the cantine. The local bakery delivers bread, a staple of every French meal, fresh every morning.

“Menus are set up two months in advance by the cantine management staff, and then sent to a certified dietitian who makes small “corrections.” The dietitian might take out a small chocolate éclair and replace it with a kiwi for dessert if she thinks there's too much sugar that week.”

And the cherry on top is that they also teach their children HOW to eat…

“They also make an effort to create a relaxing environment where children learn to dine in a calm, sophisticated manner.”

“Eating a balanced meal while sitting down calmly is important in the development of a healthy child,” adds Cahuzac. “It helps them to digest food properly, avoid stomachaches and avoid sapped energy levels in the afternoon.”

So what can we do to begin emulating the ways of the French?

“Home-cooked meals based on plenty of fresh produce, and a weekly family walk, hike or game of tag are simple lifestyle habits that make a difference in a child's life over time.”

And for the schools, this article offers two suggestions:

“If healthy options are not available in your school, get in the habit of packing a healthy lunch for your child and boycott the cafeteria's fast foods. Then, reach out to local, state and national elected officials and demand better nutrition in your school. To learn how to take specific action for better food at your child's school, visit the official website of Fed Up, a documentary about America's sugar addiction and obesity epidemic.”

My take on this:

Food is powerful. There is nothing more important than the health of our children. Therefore, serving poor quality and overly processed food in schools has a number of negative consequences.

It not only increases the chances of childhood obesity, but it’s also likely to negatively affect academic performance. Fighting for better school lunch programs, like those of the French, will provide our children with the health that they deserve and that will provide them the best future possible. Make the health of our children a priority and get involved today.

Here’s to better school lunches and happier, healthier kids…