'We have been forgotten': School catering companies have suffered since the strike began

School catering companies have been struggling in several regions of Quebec since the Autonomous Education Federation (FAE) strike began.

Astronomical losses of income and sudden layoffs have characterized their everyday lives over the last five weeks. This is the reality of Midibouffe’s owners, Maria Perrotta and Joe Magri, who count 30 schools in Laval and the North Coast among their customers.

“We were forgotten,” says Joe Magri angrily. They don’t think of us in the portrait of the strike.”

“Our goal is to serve meals to elementary school children,” adds Maria Perrotta. The impact of this strike is much greater than we can imagine.”

Those who bought their company in early 2023 had to lay off their 14 employees.

“It’s instantaneous,” says Maria Perrotta. If we can’t serve meals, I can’t keep my employees. It hurt us so much.

“It’s difficult financially, but also morally.”

When the kitchen is at full capacity, Midibouffe produces thousands of meals for its customers every day. This is a significant deficit in their business budget.

“If this continues, we will no longer be able to do this,” says Mr. Magri.

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Survival thanks to Ontario

Mazzola, which has served the Gatineau and Ottawa region for 30 years, is operating at 40% capacity. His client list includes 19 schools in Quebec that are closed.

“Even though we serve 28 schools in Ontario, our revenue is down 60%,” says owner Helena Mazzola. Despite everything, we kept our 25 employees for fear of losing them to another company.”

The losses caused by the FAE strike are not comparable to those caused by the pandemic.

“During the pandemic, the government helped us,” explains Ms. Mazzola. He gave us a percentage of the salary, which saved our lives.

“It’s not the same for the strike. We won’t be able to keep this up for a few more weeks. It’s the same with children. It would be criminal.”

What about poor children?

Ms. Mazzola and her family have a foundation that provides around a hundred disadvantaged children with nutritious lunches during school hours.

“It’s the only good food they eat in a day,” she laments. The children no longer have access to this meal because they are not in school.

“Several parents thanked me because they gave their children hot dogs and chips that evening. What’s happening to them worries me a lot.”

The caterers we spoke to are walking on eggshells. They do not want to take a position in the conflict. Even if they have permission from school administrators to check the contents of their refrigerators and freezers, they are reluctant to enter schools.

In the meantime, they are keeping their fingers crossed for a quick resolution to the strike so they can be back on schedule in January.

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