From the cost of energy to raw materials and groceries, rising prices are unavoidable, and hot school meals too will not be spared, adding to the already long list of concerns for schools in Belgium.
Starting next year, hot meals provided by schools during lunchtime will increase significantly in price, possibly costing one-fifth more in some places, according to Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen (KOV), the umbrella organisation for education in Flanders.
"Prices will vary greatly from supplier to supplier and plot to plot, so averages are difficult to calculate. In the worst-case scenario, schools are faced with a 20% price increase, which is a significant difference," the organisation's spokesperson Pieter-Jan Crombez told The Brussels Times.
The organisation received a "justified" request for a price increase from the region's three largest suppliers in light of the "current difficult economic situation," as the increased price of ingredients, as well as labour and production costs, have put the entire food chain under pressure.
Parents should not foot the bill
School meals are a blessing for both children who struggle financially, and when working effectively, should save parents a lot of time and money.
The rise in prices could bring this system into jeopardy, however, KOV stressed that it is important that suppliers "continue to guarantee the service, portion size and quality of the meals, as well as a healthy variation on the menu of chicken, beef, pork, turkey and fish."
Earlier this week, the Flemish education sector once again sounded the alarm bells, warning that schools are seeing their financial resources being drastically reduced.
As with the increase in the cost of other essentials, schools want to protect parents from the outfall of the rising meal prices as much as possible by absorbing the price increase with their own means.
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However, Crombez stressed that once again, it would not be a good thing that schools would use resources intended for education for this purpose, as this will have a negative impact on the quality of education.
"The precarious financial situation of many schools due to ongoing cutbacks also means that it may no longer be possible for them to make a financial contribution even if they wanted to."
Government support needed
Some schools are even saying they will no longer be able to guarantee a fixed annual price for the first time ever, according to reports from De Standaard.
Crombez concluded that financial support from (local) governments could be used to help schools. "This will probably be needed more often in the future as well, as after all, this is a pre-eminent social issue."