Sending vegan children to French school, whether private or public, does present some difficulties. To give you an idea of how complicated it can be, here is a summary of my experiences in the three different schools my children have attended.
Firstly, they were at the Steiner/Waldorf school just outside Paris. Part of the Steiner/Waldorf philosophy is a focus on agriculture, so the food they serve is not just organic, it’s bio-dynamic! However, at the Steiner/Waldorf school where I sent my little ones, a vegetarian option was available, but not vegan. So what does a vegan do? You are only allowed to bring your own lunch if you can provide written proof and approval from a doctor including much documentation, details of allergy tests or other medical reason, etc. I would need to find a pretty flexible/corrupt doctor to pull off that paper work! In the end the teachers just turned a blind eye to my son bringing his own lunch but the downside was I still had to pay full price for the cantine, which he took no part in.
Next, we were at a Montessori school in the 5th. Here, the children have the option to bring lunch from home vs. eating at the non-organic school canteen. It felt good to be playing by the rules. Strangely though, I had to pay a small monthly cantine fee. For what I wasn’t sure but the school was working very well for us, so I didn’t press the point.
Finally, at the public school in our neighborhood there is a vegetarian option but not vegan. We were told the kids could just eat the vegan stuff on the plate i.e. have a nice plate of plain spaghetti. This I don’t consider a balanced option. Children are strictly forbidden to take food from home without doctor’s approval. In this case, luckily, our children have the choice to go home from noon to 1:30. This works well for us. The school is close, so the kids come home and it’s nice to see them and provide them a nice organic, vegan meal.
There is no snack time at the French schools (except the Waldorf) so that’s not an issue. But there are often birthday celebrations or other fêtes involving food. In these cases my kids pass on the food and may just enjoy some juice. If I am lucky enough to know in advance, I can leave a vegan treat with the teacher for my child or I give them a special treat after school to celebrate the event.
Looking back, it hasn’t been easy for me but it’s just about do-able and the kids have always got nice food and are growing big and strong.