Three-course meals and long breaks: French students should be able to enjoy their school meals. This is also expressly mentioned in the standards.
French school food guidelines ensure good nutritional quality of food services and set the framework for meals in schools (1, 5). Half of the school meals are financed by the French Ministry of Education and the other half by the parents, depending on their income. Families with little income receive financial support from the state. The municipalities organize the catering and mainly commission private providers. Either the schools have their own kitchens or the meals are prepared in a central kitchen and then delivered (4).
French food culture
School meals are offered in a cafeteria designed to convey French food culture. The students are served three- or four-course meals and the break time is usually two hours. Every school lunch must consist of a main course with a side dish, a dairy product and either a starter or a dessert. Vending machines have been banned in French schools since 2005 (2). Food-based standards for lunch and foods other than lunch are included in the school food policy (1). The standards also specify the frequency with which foods and dishes are offered in a 20 meal cycle (3).
Participation rates are comparatively high
In France there are mostly all-day schools. Children from the age of three can attend pre-schools, afterwards all children attend primary school and comprehensive school from the 6th grade (collège). The participation rates in school feeding are comparatively high. 54% of the pupils in comprehensive schools are reached with school meals (4). School feeding in France has recently undergone a major reform in terms sustainability. From January 2022, at least 50% of the food used must originate from sustainable or regional production and at least 20% of the food products must be organic (4). A study demonstrates that generalizing the service of meals without meat or fish would deteriorate the overall nutritional quality which highlights the need to define the composition of vegetarian dishes and their frequency of service to schoolchildren (5).