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Vegetarian Lunches Banned in French Schools?

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Paris is starting to see some demonstrations from protesters after a new law passed on Oct. 3 that essentially bans vegetarian meals from French schools that cater to more than 80 children a day.

The new law sets a minimum amount of nutritional requirements that the school canteen must adhere to. This practice is fairly common in the U.S. with public school lunches having to meet dietary guidelines which include how much protein, iron, calcium and fresh fruit children should be given.

The problem in French schools with the new law is that the protein requirement is soley based on protein from animals.

According to the Guardian, “So while the new rules do not explicitly ban vegetarian meals, Brigitte Gothière of the vegetarian association L214 says they make it clear that the state believes all sources of protein should come from animal, not vegetable, products. On a 20-meal cycle, a minimum of four meals must include “quality meat” and four “quality fish,” and on the other days, egg, cheese or “abats” (offal) should be the main dish.”

The new law does not give kids who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet an alternate option from the abundance of meat products that are available to them. French schoolchildren who eat in the canteen are treated to what many would consider a vegetarian nightmare of foods– rabbit, veal, cassoulet (bean stew or casserole made with pork sausages, duck, goose, pork skin and/or mutton), and raclette with accompanying charcuterie (a melted cheese dish).

Association Vegetarienne de France president, Isabelle Dudouet-Bercegeay, says that, “It’s a case of ‘If you don’t want your child to eat meat, don’t use the canteen.'”

According to Care2, it isn’t just vegetarians that are upset with the new French lunch law which basically insists children eat meat for protein. Jewish and Muslim families will also be affected by the new laws. Many who already bypass meals which include pork.

Le Parisien reports that many students in France are served vegetarian meals once or more during the week. Brigitte Gothiere, spokeswoman for L214, is concerned about what this will mean for schools who do offer a vegetarian only day during the week and/or offer a vegetarian alternative to the meat lunch available.

She says, “Because of the decree, the cities involved will find themselves outside the law. We could at least leave the choice to students.”

Matthew Gregory, advisor supply Minister, says that, “The alternative menus will continue to exist if the cities comply with our order. There will be a case by case basis.”

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