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The school canteen challenged by inflation



How to guarantee a school canteen accessible to all in an inflationary context which is driving up the prices of energy and foodstuffs? This is the puzzle facing local authorities. With galloping inflation, estimated by INSEE at 6.1% over one year in July, the price of meals is likely to increase by 5 to 10%, according to the Association of Mayors of France (AMF).

Should the additional cost be passed on to the prices applied to families, modify the composition of the menus, save money in other sectors or solicit taxpayers? “The choice will be different from one community to another, advances Philippe Laurent, vice-president of the AMF. The departments and regions, which manage the colleges and high schools, have lower management costs than the municipalities in charge of the schools.As for meals, a lot of efforts have already been made, and I don’t know if we can go much further. In Sceaux, where I am elected, we will probably opt for a small increase in tariffs, but only from January. »

Concerned parents

In other cities, prices will increase from September and will weigh on the budgets of parents already faced with an increase in school supplies. According to an Ifop poll carried out for the Syndicat national de la restauration collective (SNRC), the increase in canteen prices worries eight out of 10 parents, and 42% of families would consider eliminating certain meals in the canteen in the event of a price increase. too strong.

Faced with this worrying situation, the Foundation for Nature and Man (FNH), Secours Catholique, the National Federation of Organic Agriculture and the Restau’Co network have asked “the deployment of social pricing throughout the territory, via long-term state support for communities and its automation to avoid non-usereports Caroline Faraldo, agriculture and food manager at the FNH. We saw it with the closure of canteens during the Covid: when children from families with the lowest incomes no longer have access to school meals, their food insecurity increases. »

Too rare social pricing

While the primary mission of the canteen is to feed the children, whatever the means of the parents, social pricing schemes remain in the minority. “In 2013, 69% of municipalities did not offer differentiated tariffs based on household income or composition,” deplores LFI MP Clémentine Autain, who in 2020 tabled a bill for virtuous canteens. And in 2022, only 1,345 municipalities out of the 12,000 eligible have set up the “€1 canteens” system, subsidized by the State for three years.

“Many municipalities do not take it up because this support is not sustainable, regrets Marie Drique, in charge of the Dignified Access to Food project at Secours Catholique. As there is no social pricing obligation, each community does what it wants. »

For lack of help, some children cannot have lunch in the canteen. Sometimes pupils are even sent home because their parents have not been able to pay for their meals. According to the 2020 report of the Court of Auditors, “the rate of unpaid school meals is close to 6.4%”.

The most affected are of course the poorest. In 2016, 40% of middle school students from disadvantaged families did not benefit from school meals, compared to 22% for wealthier families. In the reinforced priority education network (REP +), the proportion of non-registered people even reached 75%, according to a report by the National Council for the Evaluation of the School System. A situation that is likely to worsen with inflation.

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The canteen, an important service for families

According to an Ifop poll carried out for the National Union of Collective Catering (SNRC), 92% of parents whose children have lunch in the canteen say they are attached to school meals.

8 out of 10 feel that the canteen contributes to a balanced diet (84%) and that it is a social catering (80%).

81% are worried about inflation and 29% even say they are very worried.

However, they are very divided on the measures to be taken. About half would prefer meals at moderate prices, even if there were fewer quality products (organic, labeled), the other half favoring quality.

All, on the other hand, encourage greater control of food waste and 92% say they are ready to make a stricter commitment to advance meal reservations.

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