‘Stop putting ideology on our children’s plates,’ French minister says after major city removes meat from school lunches

French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has argued against injecting “ideology” into school lunches after the city of Lyon removed meat from the menus. Local officials said it would help them follow Covid-19 protocols.

“Let’s stop putting ideology on our children’s plates,” Denormandie tweeted on Sunday.

“Let’s just give them what they need to grow well. Meat is part of it,” he wrote, adding that he had asked the region’s prefect, a state-appointed official, to overrule the move. 

Officials in Lyon, France’s third-largest city, said schools would have a meat-free menu starting on Monday.

They argued that the change would help to “streamline” the work of cafeterias while they followed the requirements on social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stephanie Leger, the city’s top education official, told AFP the new menu “will allow us to speed up the service and, thus, allow us to cater to all children.”

“To match the tastes of the largest number [of students], we have decided to remove meat,” Leger said. She added that the menu could not be considered vegan because the cafeterias would continue to serve fish and eggs, and that meat would return once the “sanitary situation allows it.”

Nevertheless, the idea to exclude meat from school lunches immediately caused a backlash from right-wing politicians. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin labeled it an “unacceptable insult to French farmers and butchers.”

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“We can see that the moralizing and elitist policy of the Greens excludes the popular classes. Many children often only get to eat meat at the school canteen,” he tweeted, calling it a “scandalous ideology.”

Lyon Mayor Gregory Doucet, a member of the Green Party, responded that the meat-free menu was a “one-time” measure introduced for sanitary reasons. He tweeted on Sunday that the city authorities were “guaranteeing a balanced meal for all school students.”

Doucet also pointed out that the government had not complained when his predecessor, from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, “introduced exactly the same measure during the first wave” of the pandemic.

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