Nursery schools in France are paid for by the state. Lunch break is two hours long, giving the children a chance to relax and sit down and enjoy a meal. The emphasis is on conviviality and pleasure and absorbing French culture. The state lays down statutory guidelines on what the meal should provide.
In England, lunch is a hurried affair, something to be got out of the way. The state sets guidelines for the meals, but these are not mandatory. Few schools, let alone nursery schools, have kitchens.
There are exceptions in England, but these are the exception, not the rule.
Willow Cottage Nursery in Oxfordshire is one of the rare exceptions, where they actually care what they feed the children. They even publish the menus on their website!
Research at Birmingham University has found the importance of wide variety in the diet of children as they are weaned, as this sets the standard as the children get older.
Research at Surrey University has shown the importance of diet for toddlers, as this not only determines what they eat in later childhood, but also into adulthood.
That is why the clown Roland McDonald is so keen to shovel McShit down the throats of kids.
The events that led to the McLibel trial were originally triggered by two concerned parents not wishing to see Roland McDonald shovelling McShit down their children's throats.
Last month the Lincolnshire Echo devoted a whole page to celebrate McDonald's in Lincoln for 25 years. A cause for celebration would have been McDonald's closing down after 25 years, or an independent restaurant celebrating 25 years of serving quality food.
Last year Gerald Howarth MP was pictured promoting McDonald's, as though this was something to be proud of.
Go out to eat in Europe, in a bar, in a restaurant, and you are almost always guaranteed good food. What you will not find is a menu for children, not unless you are in an area frequented by English tourists of the mass market variety.
European parents are shocked by what they find on offer in nursery schools in England, the food that is served, the food the kids bring from home. Joanna Blythman gives several examples in her excellent book Bad Food Britain.
Shopping for food is a pain, like eating and preparation, something to be got over as quick as possible, but it does not have to be.
There are little food oasis in an otherwise food desert. Places that are a pleasure to shop for food. The Deli in North Camp, Infinity Foods in Brighton, Taj in Brighton (an Indian variant on Infinity Foods).
Saxmundham, the market town that said no to Tesco, has a thriving independent food sector.
At Upton Park in London the excellent Queen's Market, which the local mayor in an act of crass stupidity is trying to close down.
Seedy Sunday Brighton, a seed swap held last week in Brighton, had cookery demonstrations.
Guildford farmers market occasionally has cookery demonstrations.
The Alton Food Festival, started in 2006 and now an annual event, is a celebration of local food and drink.
Slow Food recognises the importance of the link between food, culture and safeguarding our genetic heritage.
Like any true oasis, these little food oasis often attract or host cultural events. The Deli in North Camp holds literary events and is also a BookCrossing zone, Bom-Bane's in Brighton musical events, Iydea in Brighton is a BookCrossing zone and the last time I ate there they were thinking of hosting musical or literary events, Infinity Foods sponsors Seedy Sunday Brighton, The Deli hopes to hold a seed swap in the spring. The last time I passed Bom-Bane's I noticed they were offering Bom-Bane's as a safe place for children to study, get fed and get help with their homework.
What we feed children matters. It effects their health, their behaviour, their cognitive development.
The Food Programme Sunday lunchtime on BBC Radio 4 had excellent coverage of these issues. It was a pleasure to hear a four-year old French girl eloquently discussing (in English) the food she enjoyed eating. [first broadcast lunchtime Sunday 10 February, re-broadcast afternoon Monday 11 February]
Joanna Blythman, Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, Fourth Estate, 2004
Joanna Blythman, Bad Food Britain, Fourth Estate, 2006
Caroline Cranbrook, The Real Choice: How Local Foods can Survive the Supermarket Onslaught, CPRE, June 2006
Greg Critser, Fat Land, Penguin, 2004
Ben Farmer, Grocers flourish in town that saw off Tesco, Daily Mail, 26 June 2006
Felicity Lawrence, Not on the Label, Penguin, 2004
Keith Parkins, Queens Market, Indymedia UK, 11 April 2005
Keith Parkins, Asda v Queens Market, Indymedia UK, 13 April 2005
Keith Parkins, MP promotes junk food, Indymedia UK, 17 January 2007
Keith Parkins, MP yet again pictured promoting McDonald's, Indymedia UK, 19 January 2007
Keith Parkins, Why do we feed our kids junk food?, Indymedia UK, 12 February 2007
Keith Parkins, Tesco – every little hurts, Indymedia UK, 26 February 2007
Keith Parkins, Celtic invites its young supporters to experience fine dining, Indymedia Scotland, 26 February 2007
Keith Parkins, McDonald's celebrates 25 years in Lincoln, Indymedia UK, 7 January 2008
Keith Parkins, Seedy Sunday Brighton 2008, Indymedia UK, 4 February 2008
Keith Parkins, Bad Food Britain, to be published
John Vidal, McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial, The New Press, 1997