Responsibility served up

By Misch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Even on a small plate there is room for many questions. How much of what? When and how often? For a long time, nutrition was mainly a family matter, but increasingly children have to find their way around the buffets in schools and the Maison Relais. This requires good habits that children are supposed to be taught in the family. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

"Watermelon with a salad?" After a brief look of surprise, the little triangles find their way onto almost every plate. It's lunchtime, 12.00 noon in the restaurant of the day-care centre in Lorentzweiler. The first hungry children scurry to the buffet. Plates in hand, food in sight: green salad, feta cheese, plus potatoes, chicken thighs and pancakes for dessert. And the highlight: the watermelon pieces.

The educators at the Red Cross Maison Relais always keep an eye on what's going on, but what and how much goes on the plate is decided by the primary school-aged children themselves. What they decide on depends largely on prior knowledge and habits. Around half of the children in the Grand Duchy – about that many are enrolled in a Maison Relais – help themselves to similar buffets at the same moment across the country. And while the small sample of young gourmets in Lorentzweiler is putting together their menus in a comparatively balanced way, thousands of others are facing a difficult test of their young self-discipline.

If children have the right reflexes, these buffets encourage personal responsibility, leaving plenty of freedom for personal preferences. But it does not come without risks, emphasises Dr Jean-Paul Schmiz, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Rehazenter. "There are cases where children decide to eat only dessert. We try to teach them that they need to eat less meat and sugar, but more vegetables. Leaving them completely alone with food in many cases leads to the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve here. In this case, this immense individualisation within schools is, I can't say it any other way, bad."

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