Traffic poses great challenge in feeding Song Festival participants

Among the many challenges that arise with feeding over 40,000 participants of the Song and Dance Festival, delivery and traffic prove to be one of the greatest, Latvian Radio reported on July 3.

As reported in our earlier feature, the total cost of feeding one participant per day adds up to 10.80 euros (plus VAT). Breakfast accounts for 30% of the caloric intake and 2.80 euros, lunch – 35% and 4.20 euros, and dinner – 35% and 3.80 euros. This is financed from the state budget.

Breakfast and some dinners, depending on the rehearsal and event schedule, are eaten at their accommodation (70 schools across Rīga). Lunch and some of the dinners are served at 14 of the festival's larger venues, such as the Mežaparks Open-air stage, the Daugava Stadium and Rimi Olympic Center.

Catering is provided by three companies – Sanitex, Lucrum, and Baltic restaurants Latvia.

The biggest concern at the moment is not about preparing food but about the timely delivery of lunch and the lack of workforce.

"I think many people see what is happening in Rīga – roadworks are ongoing. It will create issues during the Song Festival, given that there will be a lot more people right in Rīga, and the traffic flow could also be higher. It could be a problem. We've tried all the logistic roads, taken time, but we're getting into congestion every day.

"The logistics issue is one of the most important in the event. Of course, we have spoken to the organizers, and there will be special passes to this event in places so we have separate delivery paths. But throughout Rīga, we can't really have any priority. One of the biggest complications is a catastrophic shortage of labor. People can work overtime only as much as the law dictates," said Baltic restaurants Latvia board member Guntis Bredovskis.

Catering for participants is a difficult administrative process, said Inese Siksna, spokeswoman for festival organizers.

"The total number is above 40,000, but it's not every day. Each day, the number of participants varies. The greatest number, of course, is at the Mežaparks stage, that's the biggest challenge. Given that members have a big load, we provide them with sufficient amounts of energy. So the whole festival menu was made with recommendations from the Ministry of Health, also taking into account the determined nutrient breakdown and the amount of energy needed. And the menu also, of course, contains information about allergens, which is also very relevant," Siksna said. The participants could also opt out of the catering offered by the organizers.

The head of the Riga City Board of Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) Raimonds Tukišs recalled that it is important to remember about food safety during the hot weather. The cooking and distribution process will be monitored by the staff of the PVD, but part of the responsibility should also be borne by the participants in the Song and Dance Festival themselves.

"If warm food is provided for that meal, it must be eaten at once, as long as it is warm, rather than leaving it for some later time. [..] The foundation of foundations that should be focused on and what should be done: hand cleanliness, eating immediately. Hygiene measures are the fundamentals," he said.

In order to avoid the mountains of garbage that plastic water bottles could create, festival operators are inviting both Song and Dance Festival participants and concert visitors to bring water bottles to be refilled. The water will be available for free.

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