Pascal Xicluna /

Pursuant to the EGalim law, all school cafeterias, from preschool to high school, must offer at least one vegetarian meal per week since Nov. 1, 2019. This means a single menu, or an alternative option when several options are offered) without meat. This can contain eggs or dairy products.

This measure, first carried out as an experimental program over two years, is part of the five large measures of the EGalim law in the domain of institutional catering. This sector, with its 3.5 billion meals served per year, represents a major tool in changing food practices.

This measure is also part of the new National Program for Food, one of whose goals is to promote plant proteins in institutional catering (action 24). In that regard, the EGalim law also calls for all catering institutions (not just schools) that distribute more than 200 meals per dal to establish a multiyear plan to diversify proteins, including plant-based alternative.

Institutional catering actors will be aided, through the Conseil national de la restauration collective (CNRC), to put in place these measures and to the evaluate them. For kitchen teams, the main difficulty will be to include the vegetarian option in the food plan while respecting the nutritional requirements of the meal. Additionally, they will be trained in vegetarian meals and must learn to come up with meals from ingredients that are less used today such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc.

A CNRC working group, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, has also been put in place to deal with issues linked to nutrition.

The goal of this plan is to help operators in putting in place a weekly vegetarian meal, and to identify and lift impediments to putting it into place. Beyond the health aspects, this program will allow to evaluate its effects on food waste, the level of use of school cafeterias, and the costs associated with the program. Based on preliminary findings, the vegetarian options are less wasted than other meals. Additionally, the use of plant proteins saves money which can be reinvested in purchasing quality products.