in the face of inflation, the difficult equation of school canteens, between quality and cost control

in the face of inflation, the difficult equation of school canteens, between quality and cost control

At the Victor-Hugo school canteen in Limoges (Haute-Vienne), large plates come out of the oven and students arrive in dozens, Monday 23 May 2022. “Today, it is potato dough with green salad, then cheese and fruit”, announces Franck Rose, who runs the kitchen. Together with five other agents, he prepares daily home-cooked meals for the children. Canteens are also feeling the rise in prices.

Thus, food costs have increased by about 10% in the communities compared to 2021. The percentage is the same in Limoges, where we decided to review the menus. “We are obliged to quantify everything and, possibly, replace the products with others if we see that something has grown too much and that we will not fit into our budget.”explains Clothilde Jalladeau, nutritionist in charge of shopping for city canteens.

“We have references that the price per kilogram has doubled, like cod. It is a fish that children like because it is soft and boneless, but it has gone from 7 to 13 euros. So we will get hake, hockey.”

Clothilde Jalladeau, nutritionist responsible for purchases for Limoges canteens

at franceinfo

Another solution is also sometimes to reduce the quality of certain products. “Instead of buying pasta from a well-known brand, we get the private label because we will be able to save 30 to 40 cents on the price per kilogram.”explains Franck Rose.

But if the city of Limoges tries to reduce the costs of the canteen, in the kitchen we assemble our brains so that the children can enjoy themselves as much as possible. “This involves different cooking techniques or placing lemon and parsley on the fish to lighten the dish, for example”explains Franck Rose.

The ultimate goal of all these efforts: not to force parents to pay more, which the government has specifically demanded in a March 23 circular. The first interested evaluates. “That’s really good, considering that the cost of living has been rising for months. Honestly, that’s good!”, welcomes Alex, a father. For these parents, the city’s efforts have made the canteen one of the few expenses that is not on the rise. “It is always a good thing because it represents about 60 to 70 euros per month”explains Gaëlle.

If parents are happy, the Association of Mayors of France (AFSA) complains that municipalities have to take on the consequences of inflation themselves. Indeed, school canteen suppliers are asking municipalities to increase the selling price of food. “about 5 to 10%”, according to figures shown Tuesday in franceinfo by Philippe Laurent, vice president of the AFSA and mayor of Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine). Negotiations are underway to record the amount of these increases. “The question is whether we pass this increase on to families or is it the municipality, after all, the only one financing it?”, he explains. If some municipalities like Limoges have not chosen to increase the parent bill, “about half of the municipalities” should raise their prices. A choice made “commune for commune”, assures Philippe Laurent. He wants to calm down. “There will be no increase in the coming days, if there is an increase it will be in September.”

The FSA therefore urges the government to block prices for local authorities. “Of course we must avoid the disappearance of private companies, but we must also avoid the collapse of community finances.”, underlines Gilles Pérole, deputy mayor of Mouans-Sartoux (Alpes-Maritimes) and responsible for canteens within the AFSA. Because even communities must respect the Egalim 2 law and thus offer at least 50% high quality or organic products. So an obligation. Limoges already knows he will not be able to respect this year. “There must be a commitment from the state to control the fees or the payment of financial aid.”

Another request from these local elected officials: “Initiation of discussions on the consequences of inflation on municipal finances”more broadly, claims Philippe Laurent. “It also has to do with the cost of gas, water and electricity. A municipality manages a lot of buildings: it all heats up, lights up and costs a lot.”he summarizes.

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