Other schools in the municipality are due to join the new approach by March.
Since January, the procedure for paying for lunches in the city has also changed - previously lunches in schools were free for all students, as these costs were covered by the municipality, but currently lunches in primary and secondary school class groups are available to students only with parental co-financing.
The municipality has had to give up the full payment of lunch for all students due to the rapid increase in food and other costs in recent years, as well as the deterioration of the municipality's financial situation.
The deputy chairman of the Daugavpils council Aleksejs Vasiļjevs (Latvian Russian Union) said that the reason for the changes in the catering system was the dissatisfaction of the pupils' parents. They complained about the fact that, when sitting at the table, the students often had to eat already cooled food, and were forced to eat whatever was dictated to be on the menu. As a result, some of the children chose to vote with their feet and ran to nearby shops for snacks instead.
However, despite the switch to a buffet being described by the vice mayor as "revolutionary", it has not been without hiccups. First, it has been necessary to deal with the formalities of signing contracts with parents for children's meals costing 1.55 euros per day.
Another inconvenience parents have pointed out is the long queues their children have to stand in order to get to the food buffet. In addition, there have been cases when students who stood last in line also had no choice and had to eat whatever was left. In order for students to have a normal lunch, school breaks have also had to be extended.
As a result, during those breaks when students don't have to go to the cafeteria, they have a lot of free time that they often don't know how to fill. The total amount of time students have to spend in school has also increased.
At the beginning of the week, the head of the Education Committee of Daugavpils City Council, Livija Jankovska, visited several educational institutions in the city,and said that she was satisfied with what she saw: "Yesterday in the schools we could see the really great work put in by caterers, as well as representatives of the school administration and teachers, because it is absolutely clear that in the schools nothing happens without a teacher and without a director. We also saw that different educational institutions operate different systems of catering - in some schools it is vouchers, in others - scanning codes, in others - recording in a special notebook. We saw many really good examples of catering, including the proposed menus, which are visible at least a week in advance."
Although there are still schools in the city where procurement procedures are slow and catering is done according to the previous model, in most schools, the new catering services are currently used by about 70% of students, with a slight increase from January to February.
As a result of the new approach, the amount of food waste in school meals has decreased significantly - by approximately 75%.
"This means that the children who choose to eat, basically eat it. Comparing the appetite of students in primary school classes, where parents do not pay for meals, and groups of primary and secondary school classes, it turned out that the amount of uneaten portions in primary school classes is greater," said Jankovska.
The main value of the new catering service is the possibility for children to choose their preferred main meal from several different dishes. They also have a choice of drinks and fruit.
In a few months, the municipality plans to organize a meeting with caterers so that the stakeholders can share their experiences and decide what could still be improved in the buffet approach.