The mayor of an ecologist of one of France’s most famous gastronomic cities has sparked a storm of protest and debate by removing meat from menus in school canteens.
LE PECQ, France – By removing meat from menus in school canteens, the ecological mayor of one of France’s most famous gastronomic cities has sparked a storm of protest and debate as the country increasingly questions the environmental impact of its meat-eating habits.
And the meat-free menu still contains animal protein. Main courses planned for this week include fish on Mondays and Fridays and eggs – either as an omelette or poached in cream sauce – on other days. Children also get salad appetizers, dairy products – often cheese or yogurt – and desserts.
Still, farmers see red. Some drove farm vehicles, cows and goats in protest on Monday to Lyon, which takes great pride in its rich restaurant culture and signature dishes, many of them obese.
Protesters’ banners and placards praised eating meat, stating “meat from our farm = healthy children” and “Stopping meat is a guarantee of weakness against the coming coronavirus.”
The government’s agriculture minister, Julien Denormandie, is also considering, accusing Lyon City Hall of “putting ideology on our children’s plates”. He and other critics argue the move will punish children from poor families who may not be able to eat meat outside of school.
“From a nutritional perspective, it doesn’t make sense to stop serving meat,” the minister said on RTL radio, Tuesday. “From a social point of view, it’s a shame.”
A wave of victories by green candidates, including the mayor of Lyon, in last year’s municipal elections dealt a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party. Their success reflects a growing concern in France about the environmental damage from intensive agriculture and other green issues. With more local elections expected later this year, the debate over school meals in Lyon offers an early impression of the broader political battle to come.
Lyon City Hall said serving the same meal to all children, instead of offering them regular meat and meat-free options, would shorten their lunch time. City Hall said it only had two hours to feed 29,000 children, which is a more difficult schedule to follow when classes have to be separated in the canteen to minimize viral infections. The City Hall said it also chose a meat-free meal because it was suitable for all children, including those who normally don’t eat meat for religious, dietary or other reasons.
The mayor, Gregory Doucet, said that he is a flexible person, eats a reasonable amount of meat, and does not try to force vegetarianism on children.
“Being able to offer hot food to all children is important,” he told broadcaster BFM-TV. “This is Lyon, the gastronomic capital. For us, taste is also important. “