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MaRa slams school dinner leftover sales

A restaurant industry lobbying group has criticised a trial in which leftover school meals were sold for just 1.50 euros. The group says selling school meals cheap to non-pupils will distort competition.

Ruokatunti Oulun Metsokankaan koululla
Schools often have leftovers at lunch time, but industry lobbyists want to ensure they are not sold on. Image: YLE

Jyväskylä city council started the trial at the Vaajakumpu school to try and prevent leftovers going to waste. The food was sold to outsiders at a bargain price, and the school managed to feed ten lucky visitors sausage sauce and potatoes.

“There has to be enough food for students to ensure that it doesn’t run out,” said Paula Puikkonen of the Kylän Kattaus school meal service. “There’s always a little food left over, and the leftover food mounts up around several locations.”

Competition distortion?

The price was based on the cost of milk, bread and butter, the traditional side dishes to a Finnish school meal, with the main dish effectively free of charge. Other municipalities, including Espoo, Oulu and Rovaniemi, are keen to try similar schemes.

The Finnish Hospitality Association (MaRa), however, are unhappy about the cheap food offering. They believe it distorts competition in the catering trade.

“In Jyväskylä there is an exceptionally large number of restaurants,” read a MaRa statement. “Restaurants are competing at the limits of their profitability. This trial could distort competition in the area. The municipality is competing directly with restaurant businesses, but under completely different conditions.”

The association also claimed that the practice of selling on leftovers might not even reduce waste, as kitchens could begin to order more food as a consequence. They also claimed the state could suffer lost tax revenues if restaurant customers start to frequent schools rather than cafes and other eateries.

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