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Schools in Finland may be forced to cut back on lunch menus

Faced with rising consumer prices, a number of food service providers across Finland have already asked municipalities for more funding to prepare meals.

File photo. Image: Antro Valo / Yle

While the rising cost of ingredients has not yet affected children's school meals, cutbacks could be imminent if municipalities cannot provide more funding.

Since 1948, Finland has required all primary schools to serve pupils a free daily hot meal.

A school meal's ingredients account for about one third of its expenses. There have also been increases in wages, transport costs, and energy prices, which also contribute to its costs.

This autumn, Helsinki is already preparing for possible school meal cuts.

"One option could be to reduce the meat content of meat dishes so that the protein content remains within the recommended limits. Soft bread could also be replaced with crisp bread," Aulikki Johansson, Service Manager at the Helsinki Service Centre, said.

Kuopio offers both mixed and vegetarian meals to pupils. According to Servica, which produces the school meals, reducing the variety of options could be one way to save money.

A number of other food service providers across Finland have already asked, or are planning to ask, municipalities for more funding to prepare meals.

Despite cutbacks, food service providers will still need to adhere to nutritional recommendations and food quality.

A school meal, according to the Finnish Food Authority's National Nutrition Council, should cover about one third of a student's daily energy needs, and include a hot dish, a drink, salad, bread and a spread.

Even if menus do not need to be changed much this autumn, cost pressures will continue into next year, making it likely that municipalities will have to revisit their budgets in order to maintain school lunch quality.

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