Do not throw money or food out the window. The extraordinarily high inflation that France has experienced in recent months has led to a general tightening of the belt, which is not encouraging, both for individuals and for local communities. Everyone is looking for solutions on their own scale to save scraps of candles. Fixes that sometimes update aberrations that we didn’t care about before. This is how several French cities kill two birds with one stone against inflation and food waste.
To cope with the increase in their operating costs, local communities, especially town halls, have the opportunity to use the tax lever. An option that elected officials are reluctant to implement, so as not to punish already suffering households. So they have to find some strings to pull to save on all fronts, including meals served to children in the school canteens. In Hazebrouck in the Nordics, supplier prices have increased by 10 to 15% in recent months. In Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf in Seine-Maritime, the increase in the canteen budget was 30,000 euros last spring. “In a normal year we could have absorbed it, but with an energy increase of 800,000 euros it was not possible”, admits Laurent Bonnaterre, the mayor.
Reduce portions or increase prices
In Hazebrouck, the city decided last November to reduce the menus for school children. An initiative that Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf had already taken a few months earlier: “In the steering group, together with the parents of students, we presented two solutions: reduce the components of the canteen menus or increase the price”, explains the Norman mayor. . According to him, the first solution was unanimous.
The menus have thus gone from 5 to 4 components, which makes the starter or dessert jump from one day to the next. “We are not starving the children, the quantities remain the same. It is the fact of playing on the election that lowers the prices of our service provider,” says Laurent Bonnaterre. And while working on the subject, one fact jumped out at the elected officials’ eyes: food waste. “For the canteens alone, we throw out around 14 tonnes of food a year, 21 kg per child. That is a lot for a small town like ours,” laments the elected representative.
“Less food ends up in the bin”
It is therefore four months since the children in Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf have been subject to this new regime, and the feedback seems quite positive. “We have no firm data yet, says the mayor, but the canteen staff confirm that much less food ends up in the bin. Financially, this measure made it possible to “contain the increase” to 6,000 euros instead of the 30,000 euros figure.
If the reduction of canteen menus has been able to spill ink and rain down criticism, it cannot be done just anyway. Because in any case, the composition of the meals is monitored, regulated and standardized by the National Education. The Ministry’s official bulletin also allows for meals with 4 or 5 components, the weight of which varies according to the food. Thus, the city of Toulouse had already reduced the rations served from the start of the school year 2021, from 5 to 4 components and from 450 to 350 g. At that time, inflation was not the reason, the idea was to reduce food waste. However, the result had fact, responds Agathe Roby, an elected LFI from the municipal opposition, who condemned “ridiculous plates” and the recurrent absence of starch. “Nothing like that with us, welcomes the Norman mayor. The parents even supported us in front of the cameras. »