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No free lunch, but Lapland educators roll out gratis breakfast for secondary level students

Educators in Finnish Lapland have launched a free breakfast trial after hearing that more than half of students miss a morning meal.

REDU Lapin koulutuskeskus ravintolan linjastolla leipäkoreja.
Leftover porridge is used in dough to make fresh bread. Image: Marjukka Talvitie / Yle

The Lapland municipal education and training federation REDU has estimated that it will be able to cover the cost of free breakfasts for secondary and vocational school students using the lunch budget.

Last winter, officials at the Lapland educational authority got a wake-up call when a school health survey revealed that more than half of students in the region do not eat breakfast before they head off to school.

“The results showed that 55 of our students don’t eat breakfast. We thought that we needed to do something so we decided on this pilot in April where we provide free breakfasts for our students,” said REDU rector Taisto Arkko.

REDU ja Ounasvaaran lukio ravintola
Students queue for breakfast at Ounasvaara upper secondary school. Image: Marjukka Talvitie / Yle

“Yes, sometimes we don’t eat breakfast and you might have bought a bit of candy from somewhere, but you can’t manage on that,” said vocational school student Ante Rautiainen.

“It’s much more difficult to concentrate when you’re thinking that you wish you could just go and eat,” remarked upper secondary school student Vilma Lasanen.

“It’s awful. All the time you’re thinking, ‘When is lunch, when is lunch?’” said another vocational student, Niko-Petteri Vuoskulompolo.

Students waste 20% of lunch

REDU has students in Rovaniemi, Kemijärvi, Kittilä and Sodankylä. The breakfast pilot has been running at three locations in Rovaniemi – Ounasvaara, Jokiväylä and Jänkätie – as well as in Sodankylä. The meals are provided as a separate operation allowing officials to start up the project quickly.

The breakfast includes porridge, bread, cold cuts, milk, juice and soup. The meal is free for vocational students, but upper secondary school pupils at the same location can also purchase the meal for one euro.

Arkko said that it costs less than expected to offer the breakfast service.

“We discussed the matter with the restaurant manager and in the end we are talking about quite a small amount of money. At the same time our students don't eat about 20 percent of their lunch and it [lunch] is included in our funding. In principle we can finance breakfast using the lunch money,” Arkko explained.

Officials are now gathering feedback on the breakfast pilot and are considering making it a permanent fixture from next autumn. Students are also being asked how much they were prepared to pay for breakfast. According to Arkko, the response could be around 50 cents.

Students and parents have also welcomed the service, with some 50 – 70 students showing up for breakfast at the Ounasvaara campus daily.

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