Substitute meals withdrawn from school canteens: Discrimination against Muslims?

The mayor of a commune in France has decided to withdraw, since January 3, substitution meals from school canteens in his locality. While this decision is completely legal, the parents of students and the opposition see it as a discriminatory gesture against the Muslim community.

Since Tuesday January 3, 2023, the school canteens of the municipality of Morières-lès-Avignon (Vaucluse) only offer one and only one meal. Indeed, the RN mayor of this town has decided to withdraw substitution meals from the canteens of his locality since the start of the school year in January after the Christmas holidays. According to the mayor, this measure should save money. But for others it is a discriminatory decision against students of Muslim faith.

It was through a letter, sent last November to the parents of pupils, that the mayor of Morières-lès-Avignon announced the news of the withdrawal of substitution menus in school canteens. Grégoire Souque, mayor of the National Rally, explains his decision for economic reasons and for “not to combine purchases of different foodstuffs, different storage and the multiplication of menus and therefore work in the kitchen”, he specified in this letter relayed by France Bleu.

French law does not oblige school canteens to offer a substitute menu

But the opposition and the parents of students see it as a discriminatory measure for families of the Muslim faith. Indeed, only children with allergies will now be able to bring their own meal, upon presentation of a medical certificate. “So it’s only children who don’t eat pork who will no longer be spared. It is once again to say that we do not want certain populations in Morières, and that we do not want them in the school restaurants of Morières ”, denounces the elected opposition (Socialist Party) Annick Dubois.

In his letter, the mayor promises parents that meat will only be served if the child asks for it. “The instructions are to only serve meat if the person wants meat. If the child does not want meat, we do not serve it, ”explains the mayor to France Bleu. “We don’t know if the pork will be put on the plate or not. Moreover, at no time does he speak of pork. At some point, when you want to make this kind of authoritarian decision, you have to assume and say things, ”says the co-president of the Federation of parents of students (FCPE) of the schools of Morières, Anne Vitard.

The mayor defends himself by saying that he had to “make a choice between increasing the prices or offering a single meal”. In addition, the municipalities are not obliged to offer alternative menus, according to him. In effect, french law does not prohibit or require communities to offer a substitute menu. Despite this, Annick Dubois, the opposition municipal councilor, wants to seize the prefecture, the defender of children’s rights or even the administrative court if the mayor does not reconsider his decision.

Substitute meals withdrawn from school canteens: Discrimination against Muslims?