More foreign ingredients, more vegan, less meat in pasta sauce

Starting school means a full swing in the school kitchen where students get their daily lunch every day of the week. The price of many ingredients normally included in school lunch menus has risen so sharply that school kitchens are now forced to meticulously review their menus and recipes.

He wrote: “The prices of fish, meat, milk, cereals, oils and packaging materials have risen sharply above all else, and this trend continues.” Maarit Barika Director of Commercial Operations, Catering Service Compass Group, emailed to HBL.

In Helsinki, the Helsinki Service Center is responsible for 70 percent of primary school catering services, with the remainder managed by competitive catering services Palmia and Compass Group.

Since school lunch menus for this year were already set this spring, there are still drastic changes notable in the lunch planned for the fall.

No last-minute changes were made regarding school lunch menus. But we’ll have to do a thorough review of the ingredients and recipes this fall. Some change needs to be made so we can deal with the increase in raw material prices, but that requires more discussion, he says Katja Piranenspecializes in food services in the education and training sector in Helsinki.

Catering services under pressure – new solutions needed

Palmia Catering Services and Compass Group also share the view that school lunches should now be revised due to the increase in raw material prices. Some of the more expensive foods have already been replaced with cheaper alternatives, services indicate, and more changes are expected in the fall.

We try to find cheaper alternatives or review recipes, which is good in itself too, says Palmia CEO Nina Mahonen.

“Beef and salmon are examples of raw materials whose prices have risen dramatically. Therefore, they are used to a lesser extent in recipes and have been partially replaced by fish and other meats. With the express table, recipes have not changed much,” writes Maarit Barika.

The City of Helsinki and Catering Services strongly emphasize that food recommendations and responsibility standards for suppliers and raw materials must not be compromised despite the high prices.

Lunch is an essential part of a child’s health and well-being, so Palmia doesn’t want to compromise on the quality of lunch, says Mähönen.

In order to deal with the higher prices, Palmia will likely replace individual domestic products with foreign ones, according to Mähönen.

– We are now forced to consider whether we should absolutely choose domestic products, or whether we should replace some of them with products produced responsibly in other EU countries, says Mohonen.

She adds that some of the ingredients used in recipes can also be substituted for cheaper alternatives and possibly more vegan days could be introduced in schools to save costs.

You can replace some of the meat in the bolognese sauce with vegetables so the amount of meat is reduced a bit but make sure you keep your protein intake at the same level, says Mähönen.

Maarit Parikka of the Compass group highlights solutions such as more seasonal vegetables and better control of food waste.

At the same time, Mahonen and Barica hope to continue discussions with cities and municipalities that buy the services of lunch companies.

It is unfortunate that no major support package has been given to lunch companies from the state, municipalities or cities now with food prices rising sharply. We have discussed with individual municipalities and cities how we can together make up for this, says Mähönen.

“We have engaged in active and close conversations with our various clients to come to a common understanding of the current global situation. Things have changed over time in the world since we originally signed contracts with our clients. We will actively continue these discussions with our client partners on this subject over the fall and next year,” she says. Maarit Barika.

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