Happy Thursday, hungry people!
Typically the busiest day around school for heaven knows what reason, Thursday in the cantine is a mad sprint for forks and slices of baguette. Shiz gets real. But even though it’s loud and cutlery sometimes goes flying, I’m still more than happy to be there. Why?
Because it’s darn cheap.
Teachers at my school pay €2.56 ($3.50 at time of writing) for a balanced, multiple course meal cooked by professional chefs. My soon-to-be-infamous bagel, chips, and root beer cost about the same five years ago.
How do the French manage to provide high quality meals for a relatively low price? It’s a question of department finances. Each department in France (similar to a county in the States) regulates its own school meal program. Local governments have made supporting a healthy lifestyle a priority by putting its money directly into subsidizing, on average, half of the cost of all school lunches. For the rest of the cost, there’s an income-based payment system for students. Higher income families pay a higher average than lower income ones. (Incidentally, no matter the financial situation of the student in question and the price paid, he or she gets the same meal as everyone else sitting in the cafeteria. No skipping meals. Every kid who wants to do so eats.)
Being the poor little English Assistant that I am, paying 3 bucks a day for a four-course homemade meal that I would never cook for myself is one of the better perks of this job. Yes, I had two kinds of carrots today, but I love me some carrots and it was still better than anything I’d ever find in town. The kebaberie down the street sells ham sandwiches for €4.50 a pop: twice what I pay for less than half the food. If I went for a multiple course meal in a typical French restaurant, I’d be paying at least €20. Yes, it would be rich and sumptuously delicious, but I’m just fine to stay at school and save that cash for travel.
If you ask me, French kiddos don’t know how good they’ve got it.