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Friday's papers: Wasted school food, Nordic Council language question, top journalism prize

Dailies this Friday carry news of huge amounts of edible food being wasted in Southern Finnish schools, Blue Reform chair Elo questioning a Nordic Council meeting compromise and Finland's biggest and oldest journalism award going to a Tampere politics reporter who broke the news of the Finns Party splintering.

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An estimated fifth of all school food is thrown out. Image: Hanna Othman / Yle

It should come as no surprise that we live in a wasteful society, but the scale of that waste is specifically highlighted by Finland's most widely circulated daily Helsingin Sanomat this Friday. A million servings of school food, the headline reads, are binned every school year in the capital region alone – and that's a moderate estimate.

Three students of the Kruununhaka school in Helsinki were invited by HS to discuss food waste and the figures that demonstrate the scale at which meals are squandered. The figures are only estimates, the paper writes, as some organisations like the Helsinki Service Centre only divulge their yearly targets for curbing waste, Espoo Catering offers only an estimate on its level of food misuse and Vantaa school food producers are mum on the topic.

However, the paper lays down its official estimates: 2,750 meals are thrown into the garbage uneaten in Helsinki, 1,750 portions in Espoo and 1,050 in Vantaa – each day of the school year, which is 190 days long.

Celebrity chef and nutrition expert Jyrki Sukula also features in the HS piece due to his work speaking in schools about the repercussions of food waste on the mental and physical health of the nation, not to mention the economic losses. The one million-per-year estimate is far too low, says Sukula, who says he has seen the official national figures.

"One fifth of all school food goes in the trash," he says in HS. "That is an immense waste of resources."

Sukula points to a small school in Kirkkonummi as a positive example: a school chef was on site in order to describe the contents of the food to the students, which lead to better behaviour and less waste.

Interrupted compromise

Meanwhile in politics, a Nordic Council meeting was in the midst of settling a hard-won compromise on the representational status of the Finnish and Icelandic languages when it was interrupted by a latecomer who threw a wrench into the proceedings, according to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.

Icelandic and Finnish are not among the official languages spoken by the Nordic Council, and a previous decision (based on Finland's and Iceland's wishes) held that the Council would vote on the issue on Thursday. The official languages of the group are Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.

Council members arrived at a compromise to improve the position of the other languages in an official capacity, but to postpone the vote by one year.

Finnish representative Simon Elo, chair of the newly forming Blue Reform group, arrived in the middle of the council meeting on Thursday to protest the language vote delay and demand it be carried out as planned. That didn't happen, IS writes, because Icelandic representatives were in short supply on that very day due to the proximity of the country's government elections.

"Here's a little tip for Simon," Swedish representative Hans Wallmark is quoted as saying. "I don't think there's anyone from Iceland present as the elections were only a few days ago. Some of those who the decision affects are not here to vote on it, and I think they deserve the opportunity."

IS writes that Elo was quickly shut down by a few aggravated council members, who chided him for not being up to date on the issue.

Finnish representative, veteran politician and MP Erkki Tuomioja said however that the compromise was a success, and that the language question would be carefully considered and addressed again in a year.

Top press prize goes to…

Finally Tampere region paper Aamulehti reports on one of its own native sons this Friday, as AL and Lännen Media politics reporter Lauri Nurmi was awarded the Suomen Kuvalehti Journalism Award, the oldest and highest honour in Finland's media industry. It was handed out for the 43rd time at the Korjaamo venue in Helsinki.

Nurmi received the 10,000-euro prize for "shaking up the field" and writing the biggest scoop of the year, namely the news that the Finns Party would splinter and some 20 MPs would leave if far-right politico Jussi Halla-aho were elected chair.

The award organisers also noted the hefty amount of groundwork the journalist carried out which enabled him to document the fractures of the party as it broke in two.

"It took years of network-building and hard work to get the sources and information needed for the piece," Nurmi himself said at the award ceremony.

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