Tofu and its identity crisis

Ever wonder why tofu rarely appears on school lunch trays? I found out recently that tofu is not recognized as a “meat alternative” by the USDA. I looked it up:

USDA is aware of a growing interest to expand the list of allowable meat alternates to include tofu, a whole soybean food. We recognize that soybean foods are increasingly being incorporated in the American diet as nutrient-dense meat alternatives. This rule is not proposing to credit commercially prepared tofu as an allowable meat alternate at this time. However, USDA is interested in receiving comments from the child nutrition community proposing a methodology that could be used for crediting commercially prepared tofu.

A longstanding concern regarding tofu is the lack of an FDA standard of identity. An FDA standard of identity defines what a given food product is, its name, and the ingredients that must be used or may be used in the manufacture of the food product. Without a standard of identity, USDA cannot assure nutritional consistency across brands and types of tofu in a food-based menu planning approach. Although tofu does not have a standard of identity, the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009) provides nutrient profiles for different types of tofu.

Other soy-based products are currently allowed as alternate protein products (APP) if they meet the requirements in Appendix A to 7 CFR part 210, and Appendix A to 7 CFR part 220. Examples of allowable APPs include products that are formulated with ingredients such as soy concentrates, soy isolates, soy flours, whey protein concentrate, or casein. Tofu is not an allowable APP because it does not meet the established minimum requirement to consist of at least 18 percent protein by weight when fully hydrated or formulated. (Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 9 / Thursday, January 13, 2011 / Proposed Rules)

Makes me wonder how did Red #40 and Yellow #5 got by, when tofu was stopped at the gate? Tofu seems like an easy win to me: it’s cheap, it’s healthy, and it’s plant-based. 

I have heard some people ask why don’t school lunches go meatless more often? If cost is an issue, why don’t we go the “rice and beans” route more often? Well, I have seen “meatless” consist of neon yellow processed cheese…

Although I am a meat eater, I don’t think every meal needs to incorporate meat. With respect to school lunch, the default lunch is often a hamburger consisting of a standard meat patty. I don’t know what the life cycle of a soybean plant is, but I bet it’s shorter than the 18 months it takes to raise a calf from birth to when it is ready to be slaughtered. The life/growth cycle of an organism should factor into their consumption cost, right? And what about other costs of production? Per Meatless Monday, an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Tofu requires 220 gallons of water per pound.

This week I chatted with a rancher and I should be posting a Q and A with him sometime in the next couple weeks. Also, the amazing school lunch I ate earlier this month? I still owe you a post! Actually I’m turning it into a short series. Look for it to start next week.

It’s nice to be back. Thanks for waiting! Speaking eating tofu, here’s a recipe you might enjoy Orange-Soy Tofu Stir-Fry. Any other ways that you prepare tofu at home?

55 reasons why…

1. My son is sick.
2. I am sick.
3. We’ve been at home together recuperating.
4. It’s been wonderful to be home with him.
5. It’s been really tough too.
6. Being sick and providing care is challenging.
7. Remind me, I haven’t been sick since I stopped eating school lunch, right?
8. Three months ain’t half bad!
9. I have to wash some dishes.
10. I need sleep.
11. I’m thinking about my life.
12. I need to make some decisions.
13. I probably need a new job (a new school).
14. I should update my resume.
15. My friends are also leaving the school.
16. We’re tired.
17. I’m sad for the kids.
18. I’m sad for me because my favorite coworkers won’t be in the same building next year.
19. My husband agrees that I need a new job, hopefully closer to home.
20. He wants to have another baby (!)
21. I’m considering it…
22. But.
23. I ate school lunch for a year — not exactly a great pre-pregnancy diet.
24. And
25. We have an interesting housing situation.
26. It’s the economy.
27. We rent and we still own.
28. We couldn’t sell our old place so we have a tenant.
29. I guess we’re going to put it on the market again.
30. We’re going to lose big money.
31. How would we afford another baby?
32. Our bills aren’t small (mortgage, rent, daycare, even food…)
33. Cooking from scratch is transformative and worth every cent.
34. And at least there are savings in not spending money eating out.
35. I enjoy creating stuff in the kitchen too.
36. Oh yeah, I created something else…
37. The book is coming along great.
38. It’s in the hands of the publisher now.
39. Sometimes I think about when the book is published (later this year – TBD).
40. I’m terrified.
41. I reveal everything.
42. What happens then?
43. Some say it’s a feather in my cap.
44. I say it’s an unknown.
45. Writing was the easy part.
46. I love to write.
47. If I write something again, it’s going to be fiction!
48. Non-fiction is intense.
49. It’s personal.
50. I’m a worrier, not a warrior.
51. I wasn’t prepared for this.
52. Eating school lunch for a year has changed the course of my life.
53. Going back is not an option.
54. But I need a rest.
55. I want to take some time off.

Starting now.
I have never taken a full week off before.
Here goes…
I’ll be back to blogging on Wednesday March 30th.

I’ll be around — on twitter sporadically (where I chat) and on facebook too (where I share one link to a food news item every couple days).

And someone is calling for me from his bedroom…we’re still very much in the trenches…

Q and A with Bob Bloomer from Chartwells-Thompson

Last week I told you about how I met Mr. Bob Bloomer, the Regional Vice President for Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality for Chicago Public Schools. He agreed to answer a few of my questions and I appreciate that considering he is a busy guy (he oversees the day-to-day management of food services in 470 Chicago schools). I want to thank him for being gracious enough to participate.

1) Just so we’re clear, does your company have anything to do with the food I ate last year? No, as your school would have been serviced by Preferred Meals which is a separate contract with CPS. CPS requires that all meals meet the nutrition standards they set for school meals.

2) Tell me about yourself, where you are from and when you got interested in school food. I am originally from New York and came to CPS via Thompson Hospitality, our joint venture partner at CPS. I came to Chicago in the summer of 2000 to help open CPS as the Thompson Hospitality joint venture representative. I ended up staying permanently and moved over to the Chartwells payroll and my decision to do this was based on what I considered to be the important work that we were doing here in Chicago.

3) What do you do on a typical day? I’m not sure if there really is such a thing as a typical day. I typically start my day in the office at 7:00 AM answering emails and catching up on anything that I need to. I meet with my team members on a regular basis to discuss anything that affects our school meal operations – nutrition and menus, student participation, marketing, minimizing food waste, cost issues, etc. The current expansion of Morning Max to the remainder of the elementary schools has been a huge undertaking and is occupying a lot of my time right now. I go out to at least two or three schools each week, unannounced, to see how our programs are being received by students. I eat at those schools I visit whether breakfast or lunch and solicit feedback from students. I have off sight meetings with principals, parents, LSC members, and typically enjoy those exchanges. It’s important for me to learn first-hand how our operations are working. I also work with several community and national organizations such as the Healthy Schools Campaign, Familyfarmed.org and School Food FOCUS, a group representing the 40 largest urban school districts in the US, trying to bring more healthful foods to students.

4) What’s the best part of your job? This is an easy question to answer, seeing hungry students enjoying the food being served to them in our school dining centers by the caring staff members of Nutrition Support Services. I also enjoy working with community groups that are dedicated to the betterment of children’s lives both here in Chicago and nationally.

5) What is your biggest challenge? It’s trying to get out the word about all of the great changes that are being made in the district by the dedicated team members in each school. A lot has changed in the last year and it will take some time for all students to try the new food selections and become familiar with the great tasting, healthier choices offered in schools.

6) Do you think there is a problem with school food and do you think there needs to be reform? The school meals program is a critical part of child nutrition in our country. More than 31 million children participate in the program every day. Everyone needs to keep in mind that the average district across the country has less than one dollar to spend on food for each lunch served. I think we and districts across the country do amazing work with that dollar and are always looking to improve what we do. We are always looking at ways of providing more healthful, more locally-sourced foods to our students.

CPS has one of the largest farm-to-school programs in the country. Our goal is to spend $2.5 million dollars this year on locally sourced and produced fresh and frozen produce. We are working on a project now that will bring raw chicken into Chicago Public Schools next year which we will prepare on-site. We are working with the USDA to source enough of this chicken to serve on our menus at least two to three times each month. We feel that our school dining managers and cooks are ready for this next important step.

7) If a parent or teacher has a concern about the food in their school, what should they do? What if Chartwells is their vendor? They should contact Nutrition Support Services and we will be happy to address any concerns.

8) What do you want people to know about Chartwells? Chartwells is the leader in school food service in this country and abroad. We are market leaders in such areas as local procurement, sustainability, supporting local minority and women-owned businesses. We are working hard to make the best possible meals for students in Chicago.

9) What’s your wish for school food? I would hope that we continue to improve the healthfulness of foods that we offer students and can source less processed, cleaner label affordable foods and continue to be innovative in the way that we cater to our populations. We have many exciting programs that we are working on here in Chicago that will increase the acceptability of our menus by students.

10) Anything else you would like to mention? We are thrilled to be part of a community that is working to improve children’s health and academic success. But, we need more people to be part of the community that is focused on promoting healthy lifestyles. I am lucky to work with a great group of professional, caring individuals that truly want to see better for all of the students that we serve in Chicago. Everything that we do at CPS is for all of the students of CPS and must be sustainable financially.

Food News, Titanium Spork Award, and Lunch Literature Book Club

What I’m reading this week…

School Food
Miracle worker in the school kitchen — Private school chef in Chicago makes federally reimbursable school lunches for $3 each.
This Week in School Food News (Better DC School Food) — Ed’s summary, which is great and I like how he blames pop for obesity.
Adventures in School Lunch (Wendolia) — A food blogger/mom ate school lunch with her son! Honest and fair critique.
Another great school lunch (Jackie’s School Food Blog) — UK school lunch (as contrast to the above)
School Lunches: Scratch Cooking is Possible (What’s Cooking with Kids) — Video of a chef visiting a central kitchen
Investigation Reveals How Food Industry Rebates Thwart Healthy School Meals (The Slow Cook)

Gardening
Michelle Obama Plants Kitchen Garden For Spring: Boxed Beds, Beets…And A Book (Obama Foodorama)
Families Turn Out for a School Garden Raising (The Slow Cook)
How to build My 50 Dollar Greenhouse (The Door Garden) — I totally want to do this now!

Food and Politics
Farm Bill 2012 (Civil Eats) — This is going to be a big one later this year and the next.
Health Foods Replace Junk Food at the Cash Register (Feed our Families blog) — check out the photo!
Say No to Artificial Food Dyes (Feed our Families blog) — sign the petition!
Economics of Obesity (Obama Foodorama)
Breakfast is Not So Gr-r-reat When Your Only Option is Frosted Flakes (Civil Eats) — regarding the “share your breakfast” promotion with Kellogg’s
Free Our Food (Civil Eats) — genetically modified has not been studied enough.

Random
Crocheted Apple Cozy (Steamy Kitchen) — perfect for my lunch!
Are whole grains making us fat? (The Sweet Beet) — provocative, what do you think?
Hundreds Of NYC Schools Use Dirty, Dangerous Heating Oil (NY1) — Yuck!

Please vote in two polls to the right:
1) Titanium Spork Award for January/February
Please vote for one of our nominees!
2) Lunch Literature Book Club
I hope you enjoyed reading Free For All. Please vote for your selection for our next book!

Lunch Wrap Up #11 – just breathe

It’s been a really long week. It has nothing to do with the blog. Work has been quite stressful. ISAT happened.

I don’t administer the ISAT to my students, but it affects the whole school. The school sort of shuts down.

A few weeks ago, before the test, I ran into a couple students and asked them how they felt about the exam. It’s weird to me that people don’t ask kids how they feel about testing. Feelings drive behavior, no? Anyway, one girl was was completely not fazed. She told me, “I’m not nervous.” Well, I know this student and I know that she is really not bothered by exams. Just so you know, this is not typical for most kids.

The other student (let’s call her Rachel — not her real name) admitted that she was nervous. I asked why. Her response, “I want to go to college. I want to have a happy life.”

Did your breath just catch like mine did? Rachel is in fourth grade. She equates doing well on this test with future happiness…ugh.

I know it wasn’t my place, but I broke it down for her. Looking her straight in the face I said, “Rachel sweetie, you are going to do great on that test. You are very smart. But even if you do terribly, you are going to have a happy life. You are going to go to college.”

You are going to be fine Rachel. Actually we all survived the ISATs.

Just breathe.

Heard the song on the radio this morning, matter o’fact: (Anna Nalick):

Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

But you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable,
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button now
Sing it if you understand.
and breathe, just breathe…

The song came on just as I was starting my lengthy commute to work…wow, did I need that!

Lunches below the jump… Just click:

MY SON’S LUNCHES
MONDAY
Turkey wraps on spinach leaves, sweet potato soup, strawberries,
coconut milk with blueberries, bar

So my mom came from out of town bearing a package of teff flour wraps, which I cannot find anywhere locally. They made great little sandwiches. This was my son’s ideal lunch. He ate everything! Daycare menu: cheese ravioli, bread, diced pears, green beans with fruit and yogurt as snacks.

TUESDAY
Repeat lunch

I asked him what he wanted to eat for lunch and he said sandwiches! Also one of you mentioned using goat cheese instead of daiya. My husband has fed our little one goat cheese at home for a month or so, but I take it easy with introduction of stuff so that I can watch for tummy upsets. Well, I think goat cheese is definitely in. I added it to the sandwich wraps. Again he ate everything! Daycare menu: ground beef, rice, bananas, diced carrots, with fruit and blueberry muffins as snacks.

WEDNESDAY
Goat cheese cracker sandwiches, tomato soup,
passionfruit/mango yogurt with berries, apple slices, bar

Another hit lunch! It looks meager to me though. Daycare menu: American cheese sandwich, tomato soup, mandarin oranges, peas, with yogurt and wheat bread with soynut butter as snacks.

THURSDAY
Bacon, apricot rice and peas,  passion fruit/mango yogurt,
applesauce, black cherry jello, bar

It was St. Patrick’s day and my kid wore orange to school, but at least there was *some* green in the lunch — in the form of partially frozen peas. The lunch thaws between home and daycare. They also microwave too. I sent along the jello because the other kids were making “green milkshakes” and the front desk was handing out huge green cookies — he needed a treat too. Daycare menu: diced ham, mashed potatoes, applesauce, green beans with fruit and American cheese with crackers

FRIDAY
Mac and chreese, kale chips, egg, apple slices,
sunflower seeds, bar


The kale chips are crazy addictive. This time I followed the recipe from Michelle Stern’s new cookbook: The Whole Family Cookbook. I can’t stop shoving them into my mouth. Now they are gone, but I have enough kale in the fridge to make a bunch more this weekend. Don’t be greedy like I was and put too many on a baking sheet. They need their space to get crisp. If they are stacked, they don’t crisp up. My kid loved this lunch and asked for pasta for dinner. We ended up eating buffalo burgers tonight though. Daycare menu: ground beef with pasta in a cheese sauce, bread, diced pears, diced carrots with fruit and ice cream as snacks.

MY LUNCHES
MONDAY
Leftover crockpot meal: brown rice cous cous, beans, carrots, etc,
coconut yogurt with strawberries, turkey sandwich wrap
I ate up the last of the previous week’s leftovers. I really enjoyed that meal — the cous cous is brown rice cous cous (not wheat cous cous). I bought it on sale at Whole Foods. The yogurt with strawberries was amazing! It was like ice cream with strawberries.
TUESDAY
Sweet potato soup, yogurt and strawberries, turkey wrap
Another great lunch. I like spooning yogurt out of the container when I can. Does anyone else struggle to eat a whole container of yogurt without something to break up the texture?
WEDNESDAY
Crockpot meal: Apricot chicken with rice, baked potato, apple, bar
Starch overload — I know. My husband bought a convection oven on sale at Menards. One of his goals is to shorten the amount of time it takes to bake potatoes. He’s a funny guy. We had one left in the fridge and I figured if the UDSA can count potatoes as a veggie in a school lunch (instead of a starch), than darn it so would I!
The apricot chicken was really, really good. I used Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe as inspiration. All I did was put in a cup of rice, 2.5 cups of chicken broth/water mix, a frozen package of chicken thighs and a full jar of apricot preserves and then let it cook for 8 hours. My husband and son loved it. We had two nights in a row, which was nice.
THURSDAY
Peanut butter sandwich, yogurt, orange, apple,
tomato soup, argo tea
I’m nuts for the Argo Tea. It’s caffeine free. My favorite flavor is Mojitea. At Whole Foods they had a little table and were giving out samples. So my son and I tried some and just loved it. The employee also commented that the bottles are perfect for reusing to hold homemade salad dressings. I have saved every single bottle in anticipation of the day I make my own salad dressing!
FRIDAY
Mac and “chreese,” kale chips, egg, bar
Delicious lunch, but I was really hungry after work. In fact, I still am. Off to find a snack!
By the way, anyone notice that food prices have increased? Even taking into consideration the cost of some of the packaged gluten free products, we’re paying more than ever before.

And then…

Yesterday I left you at a critical moment. I need to back up and tell you something else about that night.

I looked like crap. Like I said, I went to the screening of Lunch Line with no expectation of talking to anyone. I wanted to get in and get out. I probably had a blog post to write.

That day I spent at work and afterwards I wasn’t able to go home and “freshen up” before the movie. I was like most teachers after a long day: sweaty and tired. Also, I might have eaten a lot of garlic at dinner.

So I walked up to the front of the room where Bob Bloomer was chatting with an audience member. I waited for him to finish chatting and watched as other notables were leaving. I held my breath. What to say?

When he finished talking, I said, “Hi there, I think I know who you are and you might know who I am.”

He smiled and said, “Sorry, I’m terrible with names.”

“Well, I’m Mrs. Q.”

I don’t know how to describe the look he got in his eyes. But we started chatting. I don’t remember everything we talked about, but we cleared some things up:

  • His company did not provide the meals I ate last year. I thought that Chartwells had something to do with the lunches I ate, but they did not.
  • In chatting with him, I felt that it was obvious that he cares about the food the kids eat. How could you not if you do that job every day?

I asked him if I could interview him for the blog and he agreed. So I emailed him some questions and I’ll be posting his answers next week!

While we were standing there, Sarah Elizabeth Ippel walked up. She is the director of the Academy for Global Citizenship. She smiled widely, “Hi Bob.”

Then she turned to me and asked with a laugh, “You’re not Mrs. Q, are you?”

“Well, um, actually yes.”

I think it’s safe to say that she freaked out. She jumped up and down, covering her mouth. It’s funny to see people’s reactions, but I’m just me. And that night it was me + garlic breath! But how weird is it that she asked that question? I guess I look like myself…

She said, “I want to invite you to have lunch at my school.”

“I’d love to but I’m gluten free now.”

She replied, “I think we can accommodate that.” Um, yeah. I was intrigued.

So on March 7th I toured the Academy for Global Citizenship. I ate school lunch and took pictures with my cell, just like the old days. The experience redefined school lunch for me. I’m going to blog about it next week!

Lunch Line

Last month I was able to see the movie “Lunch Line.” The screening was held at the stunning Nettelhorst School in Chicago. Although the event’s organizers invited me to attend by email, I was already planning on being there. I had to see the film. Also the organizers planned an amazing panel discussion afterwards with many people who appeared in the film including both of the filmmakers. The beauty of being anonymous was that I was able to attend and go completely unnoticed. I did not want the event to be about me — it was about this beautiful film.

First, I’d like to say that the movie is terrific. I’m not Roger Ebert, but I’d give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. I like going to movies that entertain and ones that also make me think. Lunch Line did both skillfully. There were two story lines going through the film. The filmmakers, Ernie Park and Michael Graziano, recorded the journey of the Chicago Public School high school kids who participated in the Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking Up Change Challenge (2009 was when this particular group participated). I love kids and since changing school lunch is all about them, I really loved hearing their opinions. Hilarious. Inspirational.

When one of the standout kids on the team starts describing her love of the movie Twilight, the filmmakers subtly incorporate the vampire/werewolf theme when discussing the history of school lunch. It sounds a little odd to take that theme and overlay it on the back-and-forth history of school food politics, but it works. All that discussion of the history of school lunch might have been heavy and boring, but with the snappy illustrations and the comedic relief of the teenager’s Edward-worship, it made for some quiet chuckling. I also adored all the 1950-era school lunch footage and governmental films. Classic.

Lunch Line featured interviews with the big names in school lunch reform, many who were in attendance at the screening. The panel after the movie was moderated by Monica Eng, who is the Chicago Tribune reporter who covers the school lunch beat. Members of the panel included Dr. Susan Levine (UIC Professor and author), Rochelle Davis (Healthy Schools Campaign), Greg Christian (Organic Schools Project), Sarah Elizabeth Ippel (Academy for Global Citizenship), Bob Bloomer (Chartwells-Thompson), and other people who I don’t remember (sorry!). The panel was lively (I’m not going to get into it, but you can read this article about it – the article exaggerates what occurred at least from my perspective)

Considering the panel started after we watched the movie, it was getting late when things wrapped up. Most panel participants and audience members left. I wanted to speak to one person on the panel — the person who surprised me the most. Bob Bloomer, the Chartwells guy.

I have a pretty decent bulltrash detector and I could tell that he was a decent guy, both when he was interviewed for the film and while speaking on the panel. So I decided I would approach him…and tell him I was Mrs. Q… Well, look at that, it’s getting late… I’ve get to get up in the morning so I’ll leave the rest of this story for another blog post!

But before I left that night, I purchased two Lunch Line t-shirts, one for me and one for my husband. Here’s a photo of Mr. Q’s trunk modeling this very cool shirt. I’m going to be wearing mine around! You can check out the shirts for sale at the Lunch Line store.

love the tray!

If you would like to schedule a showing of Lunch Line in your community, you can contact the filmmakers (super nice guys) on the website by clicking on “Host a Screening.” Also you can check out upcoming screenings (for example, they are in Boston this weekend and even back in Illinois in late April).

You really must see this movie if you care about school food.

Guest Blogger: French School Lunches

Aidan Larson is an American mom of three navigating her way through life in France and writing about it on her blog: Conjugating Irregular Verbs. She writes from her dining room table in the South of France in between motherhood, French lessons and perfecting her oeuf en croute. Previous lives include teaching, copy editing and bookkeeping.
If we want our children to eat well and be healthy it’s not at all that complicated. It is a matter of starting young and teaching children that food should be enjoyed and appreciated.
In France food is serious business. Each region has their own cheese, culinary specialties and pride in what they produce. From an early age, eating as a family and at regular times is the norm. It sounds ridiculously simple, and it is.
Living in France you learn to think of food differently. While there are fast-food restaurants, they are few and far between compared to small cafes and sit down restaurants.  In the States there are drive through restaurants a plenty, shouting from billboards the latest menu deal where you can easily be tempted to drive through, grab a bag of calories and scarf it down in the car on your way somewhere.
When we are so used to eating this way it’s no surprise that our children choose a bag of chips and a soda from the vending machine or a greasy slice of pizza from the cafeteria line rather than sitting down for a proper meal. In France, the mid-day meal is the feast; the biggest and most nutritious meal you’ll have all day. There is a small breakfast of yogurt and cereal with warm chocolate milk or juice. And a snack in the late afternoon followed by a small something like a cheese crepe or baguette with chestnut spread in the evening. Between noon and two is lunch time and most French observe this without exception. Stores and pharmacies close for lunch and people sit and savor their main meal before returning to work for the afternoon.
School lunches are the beginning of a lifetime of healthy eating habits; communal, balanced, and leisurely, as much a time for socialization as nourishment.
Each day French school children have two hours for lunch. They can either come home and eat with their families or stay at school and eat in the cantine. I don’t say ‘cafeteria’ because at our school it is not at all a cafeteria. There is no line, no lunch lady ladling food onto trays and no options or vending machines. Each day the children enter the cantine which is set up with tables already laid for lunch. Each place setting has a real plate, fork, knife and spoon along with a napkin, small glass and carafes of water. The children sit and are then served the first of four courses—entrée, plat, cheese and dessert.
First comes the appetizer or ‘entrée’ and it is usually a salad like shredded carrots in oil and vinegar, beets or radishes, sliced thin and served with butter and baguette. The lunch staff place the appetizer in the middle of the table and the children serve themselves. When they’ve finished this course the table is cleared and it’s on to the main or ‘plat’.
‘Plat’ consists of a meat and accompanying vegetables and starch. This is placed on separate platters in the middle of the table and the children serve themselves. Some examples of a lunch course are cordon bleu with green peas and potato gratin, lamb stew with couscous, or individual roast chickens with mashed potatoes and green beans. My children’s favorites are cordon bleu, which they describe as a chicken nugget stuffed with ham and cheese and breaded fish with lemon butter or beurre au citron.
Then follows a very integral part of the French table, the cheese course; sometimes it’s gooey cheese like Camembert, creamy cow cheese or tangy goat cheese rounds but  it can also be plain yogurt.  This is not always served with bread but depends on the style of cheese.
Finally, they have dessert. Every day.  It can be crème caramel, chocolate mousse or a piece of fruit.
And when they’re finished they go outside for a run around before settling back in for their afternoon lessons.
I would love to eat this way every day and find myself trying harder on the days my children are home for lunch and on the weekends to make them a balanced, warm lunch to share. Dinner isn’t a heavy meal and it makes more sense to go to bed having mostly digested your daily intake of food.
When you wonder why the French and other Europeans make such delicious food and are relatively healthier and thinner than we Americans you have to look no further than the school lunch. We are moving in this direction with all the interest in cooking, slow food, healthy choices and attention given to school lunches through blogs like Mrs. Q’s and that is a good thing. I am sure there is a future in providing healthier choices for our American children. It starts with all of us. One school lunch at a time.
Her children’s French school lunch menu for March can be viewed here: http://www.ville-lecres.fr/fichiers/596/menu-2011-03.pdf