How the French think about food

Matthew Yglesias writes about the Paris Greens' proposals for 2008, notably the idea that there should be a means-tested credit card-type thing that lets you buy €40 per month of fresh fruit and vegetables.

One thing that the comments on the post ignore is that this is actually a very safe proposal for French politicians to make.

The fact that French has a word like malbouffe, and that Paris schools have websites that include the lunchtime menu for the forthcoming weeks so parents can plan their menus around it, should tell you that the French take food seriously.

I mean, there are laws that require anyone who wants to call themselves a "Boulanger" to prove that they're not just reheating frozen dough manufactured in a factory. More than that: these laws are bipartisan. Nobody objected to them, that I can recall. Although passed by a right-wing government, no left-wing government would repeal them.

Also, the French invented owned the smart card (and proceeded to demand patent royalties, which is why every other nation apart from Japan waited until the patent lapsed before introducing the technology). So talking about a smart card as a delivery mechanism is in many ways a sop to French patriotism.

One of the things I like about this proposal, incidentally, is the fact that the €40 per month grant does not carry over - so if the project flops, it doesn't cost City Hall that much, but if it does take off, local greengrocers might end up having end-of-month sales on fresh produce to mop up those extra subsidies.