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If you send little Sophia and Jean-Luc – who were raised on tofu, kidney beans and chickpeas – to a public school in France with lunch money, don't be surprised if they come home with meat on their breath.

A new law in France that imposes strict nutrition requirements on school cafeterias essentially punishes vegetarians and vegans, according to advocacy groups.

According to The Guardian, groups argue the proposed 20-meal cycle of a minimum of four meat meals, four fish meals and four egg, cheese or offal meals would make it very difficult for children who don't eat meat to get a nutritious meal every day. If a child chose to skip the meat and just eat the side dishes, the school might run afoul of the Ministry of Agriculture, which has requirements for how much protein must be in the meal.

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If children want to bring their own vegetarian or vegan lunches to school, that's not a problem, but opponents of the law say cafeterias should accommodate all children's dietary needs.

In Canada, schools have actively moved toward more vegetarian options on their menus but many likely wouldn't meet France's requirements for minimum levels of protein and calcium, or probably not even Health Canada's.

At Salem Elementary School in Moncton (which is catered by Chartwells), meat-eating students can choose from a hamburger, chicken burger, chicken nuggets or chicken salad sandwich on Mondays, whereas vegetarian students can choose between the rather protein-deficient garlic fingers, garden salad or soup of the day.

Of course, it's a different matter in private schools, where steep tuition fees allow for much more inspired lunchtime offerings. Trafalgar Castle, a school in Whitby, Ont., received an award last year from PETA's youth division for being the "most vegetarian-friendly school in Canada." According to Durham Region News, some of the most popular dishes include veggie burgers, faux-beef sloppy joes and tofu with pineapple and Shanghai noodles.

Runners-up were, unsurprisingly, other private institutions across the country.

How do the vegetarian options at your child's school measure up? Do you usually pay for a hot lunch or send your child to class with a brown bag?

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About the Author

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter who writes about race and ethnicity. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in the 905 region. Previously, she was a feature writer for Globe Life. More

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