When the children drank wine in the canteen

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A small glass of red in the canteen? If today the idea seems completely absurd, until the 1950s, serving wine to children in schools was the norm. Wine was then considered a nutritious, fortifying drink with undeniable health benefits.

Moreover, “during the interwar period, partisans of pseudoscience claimed that wine was a bulwark against alcoholism, because in non-wine regions, the rate of alcoholism was higher than in regions producers”, explains Stéphane Le Bras, lecturer in contemporary history and specialist in viticultural practices, to Planet.

At the time, wine was part of the daily life of the French, from an early age. “The national propaganda committee in favor of wine, which was placed under the aegis of the State, did everything to promote the consumption of wine in schools and one of its priority targets was children”, says Stéphane Le Arms.

However, the youngest did not necessarily wait until lunchtime to drink their first drink. “Cases of children arriving drunk at primary school have been listed. Their parents generally served them wine at around 8 or 9 degrees cut in water for breakfast”, relates the historian.

What was the trigger to put an end to this practice?

Children were not the only ones to be brainwashed, however. “In addition to their salary, the workers were entitled, every day, to two or three liters of wine in their packed lunch, details Stephane Le Bras.

“France was considered the nation of wine in the world. Apart from the cultural aspect, this implies that there were strong economic stakes behind the consumption of this alcohol”, he continues.

It was not until Pierre Mendès France came to power that wine was banned in 1956 for children under 14 in schools. “At the beginning of the 1950s, there was a revival of the anti-alcoholic movement”, explains the specialist.

At the same time, a new generation of doctors emerged and warned against alcoholism. The main argument was that treating alcoholics was too expensive for the State”, explains Stéphane Le Bras. How did the withdrawal of wine from school canteens take place? Gently…

In order to accustom the youngest to another drink, Pierre Mendès France had the idea of ​​replacing wine with milk in schools. “Children had to develop new tastes in order to turn to milk rather than wine when their parents served breakfast.

Milk was also believed to allow better physical development. In addition, the dairy industry produced a lot of milk and it was necessary to sell the stocks”, develops the historian.

However, it was not until 1981 that wine was banned in all schools for minors. Until the early 2000s, adult students could still drink wine in certain boarding schools.

“For its part, the wine industry has moved upmarket by moving from big reds to quality wines, specifies Stephane Le Bras. Today, the French drink around 40 liters per year and per inhabitant compared to 130 in the the 50’s”. A small revolution.