Correns village is home to the stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt – but also home to the self-proclaimed first organic village in France. Organic in French is “bio” for “biological”, and this suffix precedes almost everything here. “Bio” hairdresser, “bio” market, “bio” guest houses, “bio” you-name-it.
And since the beginning of the year, the local primary school has also been organic. The lunch menu at the school is organic tomatoes, organic peas from a tin and organic frozen hamburgers, followed by organic yoghurt for dessert. And the bread is always organic. The 65 children enrolled there share cross-age classes – there are not enough teachers to make 8 different classes according to age. But despite the teachers explaining to pupils about healthy eating, originally the organic lunches didn’t go down quite so well. The headmaster explains that at the start they had one day which was organic, but they soon realised that some children stayed home on that day, while others ate at the canteen just on that day.
So they spread the organic food across the week and now 25 percent of each day’s meals are organic. The items marked in green on the menu are organic. But Nicole Roullane says it’s no good importing organic food from abroad – steps must be taken to encourage local farmers to go organic.
The local market sells some organic food: plants, olive oil, eggs, vegetables, goat’s cheese, all are produced without chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. But the village of Correns in mainly devoted to the production of organic wine. And you can’t serve that to children.
There is a lack of locally produced organic vegetables and meat. Most of those items have to be imported from Italy and Germany.
One thing that is locally produced though is the bread served every day to the children. The one and only bakery of Correns is all the work of one woman who has the baking gene in her name: Fanny Fournier, in French “the baker”. She gets up at 1.30am every morning to make ordinary bread and organic bread too. She explains that organic bread takes much longer. First you have to make your yeast and this takes a week, then the actual bread-making process takes five hours instead of three.
When the children have their morning snack, it is clear that organic is not the priority: you see many industrially prepared cakes and no fresh fruit at all. One mother who recently came to live in France from the United States says that the canteen is wonderful, the food is safe, and healthy and her children actually eat their meals. At noon precisely, a storm of hungry children invades the premises. Generally they seem to like their food, but when asked about the organic meals, the reactions are mixed.
One girl definitely prefers when it’s organic. But struggles to say what organic means. A couple of boys step in to help “organic means no chemicals!” According to the government body “Grenelle de l’environnement” , which is responsible for the environment, the goal is to have 15 percent in 2010 and 20 percent in 2012 of organic produce in school restaurants. However, currently only five percent of agricultural land in France is dedicated to organic farming.