I was just discussing earlier today with my mother in law who came to visit us over Christmas and New Year’s about the absurdity of the school canteen system here in France as seen by an outsider, though I have to say the school canteen food here is probably the best in the world! We’re talking about lasagne, ratatouille, roast beef, breaded fish, couscous, cauliflower and melted cheese, tabouleh, interesting salad mixes served with slices of cheese, fruits, yogurts, different types of dessert choices etc, plus they are only allowed to drink water! I hate to say this but seeing the school daily menus can really put our Singaporean canteen food to shame. I guess in respect of cultural differences, I should not be saying this. In France, salad, cheese and bread are the daily staple dishes starting from a very young age, while in Singapore, no one is going to stop a kid from eating fishball noodles everyday. Plus, kids have access to junk food that is sold in the convenience of their school canteen where parents are favorably absent. Can you imagine, when we were still living in Singapore, my son was only buying junk food everyday during recess because why not, no one is going to stop him. That became a huge headache for me and I have decided to pack him lunch everyday…. For a french, this is bizarre.
However, for the rest of the world, limiting a child to the number of days they are allowed to eat at the canteen here in France is bizarre! Seriously, how absurd is that? This is purely regulated by the town, not the country. So, apparently if one parent is unemployed, their kid is only allowed to go to the canteen maximum 2 days. I wonder if kids with both parents unemployed are even allowed to go to the canteen. I see this more of a discrimination honestly. For most parents, being unemployed is not their ideal choice, either it is harder for them to find a job, they may be ill or they may have lost their job or what ever their reason may be, it is causing a lot of inconveniences to cook, pick, serve, look after the kid from 1130am to 1330pm before sending them back to school.
Inconveniences aside, I say this is a discrimination by poor judgement. See how I had the option to pack lunch for my son to take to school in Singapore? This is not an option here. Either you eat your cooked food at home or you eat the food served by the school canteen because equality means eating the same meal together. Sure, I get that but have you thought about kids with allergies, muslim kids, jewish kids and such? There is no equality, not even liberty when these kids are preferred to eat at home rather than eating together with their friends in the canteen. What is equality if differences are made more prominent? So that kid is not eating at the school canteen because his dad hasn’t gotten any jobs. Sally is eating a different home made dish because she has allergies. Peter is not eating at the canteen because the food isn’t halal certified. Oh is Peter a muslim?
My question is, how do you bring equality if you can’t even accept diversity in the first place?
I can understand the need to cut down on spending budgets and I personally think bringing their own lunch boxes is a great way to cut down on state’s expenses, plus these breaks are probably the best times for kids to bond with each other, get to know their diversities, understand their cultures and integrate! For that, I have to say that Singapore is probably the best country to accept cultural differences because being different is so common. Everyone is finding ways to be more different than the other! We live in a weird, weird world.