To approach this subject I have decided to separate it in 2 distinctive groups
They all indeed tend to be fairly different.
At home in France kids will have breakfast composed of either cereal or toasted bread with butter and/or jam with a glass of milk and often a fruit juice on the side. On weekends, they sometimes get a croissant or a pain au chocolat, but never savoury dishes.
For lunch it will be a very classic meat/fish with a side (we often offer only one side, just rice, just brocolis, just potatoes…), cheese or a yogurt and a fruit (may be a tart or a sweet desert on the weekend)
Dinner tends to be lighter or in smaller quantities, kids will often dine around 6:30/7pm to be in bed by 8pm, but again, on Fridays and Saturdays they may often dine with their parents at 8pm.
On a family reunion often kids are gathered at one end of the table or on a separate one under the responsibility of the oldests (lucky enough to enjoy a kids version of the menu but unlucky enough to have to control the gremlins)
The reason I wanted to separate home from school is because I believe this is where the main difference between our cultures stands.
In French public schools all the city schools will offer the same meal from Kindergarten to Junior High and it will always follow this pattern
Starter (soup, salads, watermelon or melon…)
A meat or a fish
A Side that will balance the meat of fish, carbs with lean meat, fibers with fatty meats
A dairy product from cheese to yogurt
A desert that will balance the dairy, a sweet yogurt or fatty cheese will get a fruit while a lean yogurt or cheese will see a tart or pastry
On top of these balances there are no options to choose from, eat or don’t but no French fries or pizzas for replacement.
There is also no room for specific diets such as vegetarians (aside from the day without meat), no pork and so on, and no, you are not allowed to bring in your own food in lunch boxes.
On the other hand all allergies will be taken care of and exceptions will be done in those specific cases.
Last but not least, schools will try to sensibilize children to a lot of things such as a variety of cultures in the dishes with a couple of monthly ethnic foods introduction(Latin, North African, Asian…), but also a day without meat or other themes.
The schools have a chart and the monthly menus are displayed with logos when veggies are coming from a local producer (less than 100 miles), that the meal is prepared fresh on the premises or eventually that veggies and meat are free range or organics and GMO free.
The list of allergens is also provided.