Running a school canteen is not the world’s most profitable business at the best of times. But now it’s slowly becoming a recipe for disaster.
The crisis has affected pocket money – for a lot of kids, the freshly-baked tyropita is now above their means.
Canteen owners are in despair. They say sales have fallen by 70% during the last six years. Meanwhile, they feel obliged to let kids have food on credit, something which had not been the case before. Many run up tabs their parents are unable to pay from one year to the next.
Only about half the students in any school purchase things from the canteen, and they choose the least expensive items, since they only have one euro on average to spend. This is enough for one tyropita (cheese pie) or a koulouri (round bread stick) and a small bottle of water.
Often the canteens, together with the teachers and the parents’ committee, are called upon to subsidize snacks for needy students. A lot of canteens give out leftover food at the end of each day.
But canteen owners are not rich. Many have already closed up shop, and some schools are having problems replacing them. The increase in taxation to 23% is not helping.
In some areas, a lot of kids don’t bring anything to eat from home, even when they have to stay at school until 4.15 pm. In many cases the Church has stepped in, offering a large number of school snacks. Also the Prolepsis Institute is implementing a program of Food Aid and Promotion of Healthy Nutrition for the 3rd year running, with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. In 2016 it serves food to 148 schools (11.617 children) in different areas. However, the number of students who have applied to join the program are more than 260.000.
Since 2012 more than 11,5 million meals have been distributed to 480 schools and 80.000 students.
The daily menu includes a breadstick or a sandwich, a piece of fruit, milk and yoghurt with honey. There is an effort to make the meals as healthy as possible, with wholewheat bread, vegetables in the sandwiches, as well as traditional cheese or spinach pies. There is also a program for educating the children in healthy nutrition as Prolepsis feel this is important for the prevention of obesity.
Finally, Prolepsis has set up a campaign to get companies to sponsor individual schools, so that not a single child has to go without a snack.