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Katalin Kelemen Department of Economics and Statistics, Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary

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Abstract

The present study examines the Hungarian practice of public catering for children from an economic perspective, bearing in mind that the production and consumption of food is, at the same time, an economic activity. Taking this approach, we focus on which institutions contribute to or hinder efficiency, by which we mean the efforts of economic agents to generate maximum welfare from the available (meager) resources. For social reasons, the supply of public catering for children is a statutory obligation on the part of local authorities, where efficiency must be combined with social considerations. The study reviews the rationing mechanism of school meals catering as a public service, looking first at the main factors determining the level of demand for public catering for children, and then at the main factors that influence supply.

Abstract

The present study examines the Hungarian practice of public catering for children from an economic perspective, bearing in mind that the production and consumption of food is, at the same time, an economic activity. Taking this approach, we focus on which institutions contribute to or hinder efficiency, by which we mean the efforts of economic agents to generate maximum welfare from the available (meager) resources. For social reasons, the supply of public catering for children is a statutory obligation on the part of local authorities, where efficiency must be combined with social considerations. The study reviews the rationing mechanism of school meals catering as a public service, looking first at the main factors determining the level of demand for public catering for children, and then at the main factors that influence supply.

Introduction

In the context of this thematic volume, which examines the practice of children's catering in Hungary from a variety of perspectives, my paper focuses on economic aspects, interpreting the production and consumption of food as an economic activity. In this economic approach, I concentrate on the efficiency of children's catering and on identifying which institutions contribute to or hinder efficiency. By efficiency, I mean the efforts made by economic agents to generate the maximum welfare from the available (meager) resources, which are present implicitly in the concept of management.1 For social reasons, the supply of public catering for children is a statutory obligation on the part of local authorities. The public services provided by the state typically guarantee that the population's basic needs will be met, in the public interest (Hoffman 2009; Lapsánszky 2009). In economic terms, goods provided as part of a public service can be either private or public goods.

Following Samuelson (1954), the distinction between private goods and public goods is usually based on the two criteria shown in Table 1. We talk about rivalry in consumption when consumption of a given good by one consumer restricts its consumption by another consumer — if, for example, consumer A eats a sandwich, consumer B cannot eat it, whereas if consumer A sees the light from the lighthouse, consumer B can still see it. In the latter case, therefore, there is no rivalry. The second criterion is the potential for exclusion from consumption. In the case of indivisible goods, if the good already exists, no one can be excluded from its consumption — as in the case of national defense, for example. In the case of purely public goods, no one can be excluded from their consumption, nor is there any rivalry, because these goods are indivisible, whereas the consumption of private goods is rivalrous and excludable.2

Table 1.

Private goods and public goods (Based on Samuelson 1954)

Excludability
ExcludableNonexcludable
Rivalry in consumptionRivalPrivate goods (e.g., lunches, glasses, appendectomies…)
NonrivalPublic goods (e.g., national defense, public safety, lighthouses, embankments…)

The distinction between private and public goods is important because the type of goods determines the efficiency of their production and supply. The production of private goods can be deemed efficient if consumers pay the same price and consume different quantities, while the production of public goods is efficient if consumers have access to the same quantity of goods at different prices (Cullis – Jones 2003). In the case of private goods, mainstream economics assumes that the price and the demanded/supplied quantity can be determined most efficiently in a perfectly competitive market. By contrast, the rationing of public goods3 cannot be left to the market — that is, to private actors — since indivisibility and nonexcludability strongly induce free riding — that is, very few people would voluntarily pay for such goods, thus leaving the supply of public goods to the state.

However, for reasons of public policy, and taking the public interest into account,4 the state is able to guarantee the availability not only of public goods but also — as in the case of children's catering — of certain private goods. In this case, the reconciliation of social considerations and efficiency raises further questions. This paper will briefly review the rationing mechanism of these private goods as public services. I first examine the main factors that determine the extent of the demand for public catering for children, and then those factors that influence supply.

Demand for public catering for children and its determining factors

The extent of the demand for or supply of public catering for children is determined and influenced by a number of factors. These include, first and foremost, the demographic situation, the size and age distribution of the population of “children's catering age,” the cost of the service, the availability and price of alternative options, and family income. In what follows, I outline the trends in the development and impact of these key determining factors.

Demographic factors

The data in Table 2 show that the Hungarian population is decreasing and aging, a characteristic trend observed in developed countries, and that the number and percentage of children and youngsters are both decreasing.

Table 2.

Size and percentage of the population by age group, as of January 1, 2005, and January 1, 2020 (Source: KSH STADAT, https://www.ksh.hu/stadat_files/nep/hu/nep0002.html, accessed February 10, 2023)

2005 (persons)2005 (%)2020 (persons)2020 (%)
0–141,598,69715.61,421,33614.5
15–292,168,19121.51,659,69617.0
30–391,431,65014.11,271,92613.0
40–491,352,30813.41,587,74816.2
50–591,413,58314.01,235,20612.6
60–691,048,21010.41,295,05813.2
70–79766,0217.6859,7658.8
80–337,8893.3438,7904.5
Total10,097,549100.09,769,526100.0

The number of children in preschool education, elementary school, and high school is also decreasing (Table 3). The number of preschool children is falling, despite the fact that, since the 2015 academic year, preschool has been compulsory for children over three years of age.5 In addition to the demographic factors, the fall in the number of high school students in the second decade is probably due to the lowering of the compulsory school attendance age from 18 to 16 as of September 1, 2012. Data on the number of children taking advantage of public catering were found in the database of the Central Statistics Office [Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, (KSH)] only for the elementary school age group; these data suggest that, despite the decline in the number of children, the number and percentage of children using the service has increased over the last 20 years (Table 4).

Table 3.

Number of children in preschool and public education 2001–2021 (Source: KSH STADAT, https://www.ksh.hu/stadat_files/okt/hu/okt0004.html, accessed February 10, 2023)

2001/20022010/20112020/2021
Preschool342,285338,162322,713
Elementary school947,037758,566729,300
High school649,118662,808477,016
Total1,938,4401,759,5361,529,029
Table 4.

Percentage of elementary school children benefiting from meals and daycare (Source: KSH STADAT, https://www.ksh.hu/stadat_files/okt/hu/okt0008.html, accessed February 10, 2023)

2001/20022010/20112020/2021
Catering (%)57.271.075.2
Catering (persons)539,811538,581698,833
Daycare (%)39.446.154.3
Grades 1–467.078.787.6
Grades 5–811.112.020.4

Data on the uptake of the service were obtained from the findings of research carried out into national school catering in 2008, 2013, and 2017 by the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition [Országos Gyógyszerészeti és Élelmezés-egészségügyi Intézet (OGYÉI)],6 as presented in Table 5 and Fig. 1.

Table 5.

Uptake of children's public catering (%) (Source: OGYÉI National School Catering Surveys, 2008, 2013, 2017. https://ogyei.gov.hu/menza, accessed February 5, 2023)

200820132017
Grades 1–4858788
Grades 5–8476361
Grades 9–122027no data
Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Uptake of public catering in elementary schools and high schools in 2013 (frequency/%) (Source: OGYÉI National School Catering Survey, 2013:7, https://ogyei.gov.hu/dynamic/oeti_forms/menza2013.pdf, accessed January 15, 2023)

Citation: Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 68, 1; 10.1556/022.2023.00015

The data in Table 5 once again confirm that the take-up rate is increasing in all age groups. It is also clear from Fig. 1 that the uptake of public catering for children is strongly influenced by the children's age.

The younger the age group, the higher the proportion of children eating in their (educational) institution. In kindergartens, almost all children take advantage of the service; in the lower grades of elementary school the uptake is almost 90%, falling to less than two-thirds in the upper grades of elementary school; while fewer than one-third of high school students eat school meals.

The children's age determines the options available to their parents. In the case of preschool children, for example, dissatisfied parents are unable to “vote with their feet,” or “exit” and use the services of another provider, thus “using their voices” — that is, advocacy via parental activism — remains the only correction mechanism available to them.7

However, the possibility to exit or vote with one's feet is influenced by factors other than the age of the child. These include the availability of alternative options, the cost of those options, and the parents' income, to name only the most important. Despite the decline in the number of children, the number and percentage of children taking advantage of school catering are increasing — in other words, there is a stable, slightly increasing demand.

Cost of the service

In economics, when it comes to the rationing of private goods on the market, demand is interpreted as a function of market price, where the market price and the level of demand are normally inversely related — that is, the lower the price, the higher the market demand. In the case of income, direct proportionality is assumed — a higher income is associated with higher demand.

Local authorities offer school meals for a fee, which is set taking into account social policy considerations, such that a low (or lower) income does not stop children's access to (healthy) meals in educational institutions. In certain social conditions, the service is offered with an extra discount, or free of charge.8 In other words, the fee is a fraction of the cost of production9 and remains below the market price of the offered goods (food), as well as the market price of any alternative service. This implies that parents are unlikely to be able to provide their children with meals in preschool or school at a lower price — in other words, it would be irrational for them not to sign their children up for school meals if the quality of the service meets at least acceptable standards.

By contrast, as we have seen, only around one-third of high school students and about two-thirds of students in the upper grades of elementary school opt for school meals; the remaining students do not take advantage of the service despite its relative cheapness, presumably (primarily) because they do not consider the quality of the lunches to be acceptable.

Food quality

Food quality is a multidimensional concept: while some aspects are measurable (e.g., ingredients used, nutritional value, healthiness, etc.), there are undoubtedly some dimensions — such as flavor — that are subjective and difficult to measure, however much they are embedded in the children's narrower or wider environment. Although attempts can be made to regulate the objectively measurable dimensions (e.g., types and proportions of ingredients used, etc.),10 “palatability” is harder to define in law. Nor should we forget that, besides the consumption of nutritional values, there are symbolic and semantic aspects to eating (Beardsworth – Keil 1997).11

Experience has shown that the appeal/lack of school food is influenced not only by the quality of the food but also by the way in which it is served, the surroundings, the attitudes of the teachers and kitchen staff, the time available for eating, etc.12 Since eating and meals are not just a basic necessity but are also closely bound up with social relationships, mealtimes are an important setting for social interactions, and the conventions associated with eating are a reflection of human relations (Losonczi 1977). The way in which meals are eaten is determined primarily by the educational institutions, as explored from various angles in the present volume.

Alternative options

Supposing they are available at all (typically in bigger settlements), the market-based, alternative solutions (e.g., regular subscription to a restaurant or eatery, ordering food,13 buying from a kiosk, etc.) are more expensive than public catering.

The availability of certain (e.g., non-school) alternative services may be limited not only by the age of the children and their parents' income but also by the amount of time spent in school — for example, if the child remains at school until late afternoon.14 The explicit,15 and especially the implicit16 investments necessitated by cooking at home every day as an alternative should be understood in the context of the division of household labor.

In Hungary, the so-called gender revolution — when the social status quo based on the model of the male breadwinner was overturned and the social position of the sexes converged in many respects (employment, education, health, political participation, etc.) — took place partly during the socialist era, when women's presence on the labor market increased significantly (Nagy 2014; Nagy – Fodor 2015). However, with the emergence of the dual-earner family model, men's roles have changed little and the concept of the patriarchal family has remained powerful (Esping-Andersen 2009; Nagy 2014). In most Hungarian families, women also work outside the home, while the “traditional division of labor” continues within the home — that is, the burden of housework and childcare falls largely on women.

It also follows from the above that replacing “bad school meals” with home-cooked meals/packed lunches predominantly represents a burden on women — as embedded in the inequality of the division of labor at home.

Income

The relationship between per capita GDP and the use of public catering services becomes clearly apparent when comparing the data presented in Fig. 2 and Table 6.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Uptake of public catering for children by region in 2017 (%) (Source: OGYÉI National School Catering Survey, 2017:11, https://ogyei.gov.hu/dynamic/Orszagos-iskolai-MENZA-korkep-2017-181212-2-web.pdf, accessed February 5, 2023)

Citation: Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 68, 1; 10.1556/022.2023.00015

Table 6.

Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita by region in 2017 (HUF × 1,000) (Source: KSH STADAT, https://www.ksh.hu/stadat_files/gdp/hu/gdp0077.html, accessed February 10, 2023)

RegionNorthern Great Plain (ÉAR)Southern Transdanubia (DDR)Northern Hungary

(ÉMR)
Southern Great Plain (DAR)Eastern Transdanubia (KDR)Western Transdanubia (NYDR)Central Hungary

(KMR)
GDP per capita2,5672,7092,7642,8683,7474,2106,082

The bars in Fig. 2 reflect the ranking of Hungary's regions by the decreasing percentages of the take-up of public catering in elementary schools. Table 6 likewise shows the ranking of Hungarian regions based on increasing GDP per capita. The two different rankings coincide. In other words, the higher the region's per capita GDP, the lower the uptake of public catering in elementary schools. In economic terms, of course, per capita GDP is not synonymous with effective demand but is closely correlated with it — in other words, it is safe to assume that lower income is associated with higher uptake. Considering the current macroeconomic trends, we can expect a decline in the real value of incomes, meaning the stronger impact of this factor.

The relatively low price of the meals serves precisely this social aspect, of course, such that a low (or lower) income does not prevent children's access to (healthy) daily meals. In summary, despite the declining number of children, there is a slight increase in the number and percentage of children eating school meals. The younger the children and the poorer the region, the higher the demand for the service.

The offer

Although, on private goods markets, the economic actors' profit motive and competition tend to automatically weed out the least efficient players, the provision of public catering for children is a statutory obligation on the part of local authorities for social reasons. In the case of local authorities, where there is no direct profit motive, the question therefore arises as to whether there are any aspirations towards efficiency and, if so, how strong those aspirations are (Mike 2013).

According to Mike, “compared to other segments of the public sector, there are relatively strong forces at work in favor of efficiency,” (Mike 2013:2) since the quality of public catering can have repercussions on decision makers via local political competition (Salmon 1987). According to estimates,17 the quality of school meals affects 70% of citizens (via parents and grandparents), and in the public perception the cost of school meals is more important than most other public services, thus people are more likely to call their elected politicians to account. Besides the local authorities, the central budget and the parents, via the price they pay for it, also contribute to the financing of public catering for children.

According to the estimated cost distribution shown in Table 7, roughly half the costs are covered from the central budget while the remaining half is covered by payments for the service by the parents and the public revenues of the local authorities. The price of the service is set by the local authority,1819 while the conditions for free meals or discounts are regulated centrally.

Table 7.

The financing of public catering for children19

Parents

Service fee
State (central budget)

Operational and wage subsidies
Local authority
20%50%30%

Alternative ways to provide private goods as public services

The first essential question concerning public catering for children provided by local authorities concerns the theoretical possibilities for alternative service delivery, and which of these alternatives would be the most efficient (Szalai 1999). The local authority can provide the service itself, or it can use private organizations for this purpose. In the latter case, various arrangements are possible, such as outsourcing, public-private partnerships (PPPs),20 or voucher schemes,21 to mention only the most common.

The need to improve public sector efficiency (Szalai 2002) is associated worldwide with the practice of local authorities involving private actors in the delivery of public services. In the case of public catering for children, the practice of contracting out services to private actors is a kind of middle road between private supply independent of the local authority and in-house production by the local authority.

According to the economics of bureaucracy, efficiency in the operations of publicly financed organizations can easily be compromised by asymmetric information. According to informational asymmetry, the institution (e.g., a catering kitchen), although it knows better than the financing organization how to operate more efficiently, has no interest in disclosing this information. Its self-interest22 may override the need to maximize the performance expected by society (Szalai 2007).

The experiences of local authorities are consistent with the above. Accordingly,23 the involvement of a service company is a more efficient and cheaper way of producing food than in-house production. When involving external service providers, their profit orientation will lead to greater competition for suppliers, efforts to minimize waste, supervision of staff activity, etc.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of Hungarian preschool/school kitchens by operator. When interpreting the data, it should be borne in mind that they reflect only the number of kitchens, without indicating the differences in capacity of the individual kitchens. In all likelihood, church and local authority catering kitchens are far smaller and serve fewer children than those run by commercial companies — in other words, the percentages do not tell us much about the distribution of children's catering among the mentioned operators. Unfortunately, we have no precise data concerning the latter, although we can assume that the proportion of children supplied with meals by food service companies is far higher than the proportion of children receiving meals from kitchens run by local authorities (and churches).

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Distribution of kitchens by operator (church [Egyház], commercial company [Gazdasági társaság], local authority [Önkormányzat]) in 2013 (frequency/%) (Source: OGYÉI School Catering Survey 2013:13, https://ogyei.gov.hu/dynamic/oeti_forms/menza2013.pdf, accessed February 5, 2023)

Citation: Acta Ethnographica Hungarica 68, 1; 10.1556/022.2023.00015

Selection of contracting partners

If the local authority contracts the services of private actors, the next question to arise is how these contractors are selected, particularly when it comes to issues such as competition and collusion, transparency, and corruption (Tátrai 2009; Mike 2013; MikeSzalai 2012). In principle, selection is most efficient when it is done publicly and transparently, reinforcing the competitive position of the vendors. One possible means of achieving this is public procurement.

In Hungary, “If public authorities wish to outsource a service, then above a certain value they must — subject to certain exceptions — carry out a public procurement process. The essence of public procurement processes is that a state organ invites tenders from companies capable of providing the required service and then concludes a contract with the company that submits the most favorable bid.24 During this process, compliance with the principles of transparency and equal treatment is particularly important” (Nyikos – Soós 2018:34).

However, according to stakeholders, public procurement regulations alone are not able to prevent unfair competition. The public assumes that in the vast majority of public procurement processes, the tenderer defines the terms of the tender in favor of a pre-selected contractor (Tátrai 2009), thus the process is based on a patron–client relationship rather than competition.25

Cooperation between service providers and local authorities

The third area of investigation is the way in which the two parties — the service provider and the local authority — cooperate (Mike 2013). The most important formal element of cooperation between the two parties is the contract. A written contract is essential in the case of public procurement, not only for economic reasons but also in the interests of transparency, so that the details of the cooperation are accessible to others. Without this, it is likely that several details of the cooperation would remain verbal and informal (Mike 2013).

When analyzing public catering service contracts on the basis of institutional economics, Mike based his research on the premise that the content of such contracts, and differences in content, can be understood only within the broader structure of cooperation26 between the parties.

The complexity of the activity and the uncertainty of the transactions mean that not all elements can be included in the contract, thus informal elements of cooperation also play an important role. Circumstances, such as the need for the entrepreneur to make relationship-specific investments,27 or the difficulty of measuring certain dimensions28 of performance, etc., enhance the role of trust for both parties.

Service providers, suppliers

Concerning competition among suppliers, while entering the catering market can be said to be easy in principle,29 for the above reasons this is not exactly the case in practice. The larger the area/the bigger the number of students, the greater the risk (on both sides) and the bigger the role of trust and of the parties' previous experiences,30 thus the smaller the competition.

In the case of a private service provider, efficiency and profit motives are presumably fundamental. Since profit is the difference between revenue and expenditure, and since the expected revenue is determined by the contract between the provider and the local authority, the provider will seek to minimize its costs and achieve optimal plant size.31 The service provider will have to bear the costs of investing in (relationship-) specific equipment, its maintenance, the cost of materials, operational costs, the cost of human resources (labor shortages are typical), and the cost of purchasing ready-to-cook ingredients for daily catering.

The regulations endeavor to encourage catering companies to give preference to locally produced, non-imported ingredients when choosing their suppliers (Deák 2014), and to establish the shortest possible supply chains.32 In other words, no third-party companies should be introduced between the local producer and the kitchen for the handling, cleaning, pre-cooking, or storage of food, and the local producer should supply the public caterer directly. However, the problem for local producers is not only their inability to supply pre-cleaned, ready prepared, and oven-ready ingredients, but also their lack of capacity to produce the quantities required (by larger kitchens), not to mention the existence of the quality certificates required by the regulations. Only a limited number of local producers are able to do this.

Due to their lack of infrastructure and human resources, the kitchens are also unable to store and process the ingredients that local producers are able to supply. However, the kitchens need sufficient quantities of ready-to-cook foods every day, “just in time” to produce their meals. The cheapest and easiest way to obtain these is from large commercial chains. Buying from commercial chains is advantageous because: 1) they are cheap(er); 2) all ingredients are available in one place, ready to cook; 3) payments can be made by bank transfer or card; 4) above a certain quantity, suppliers will deliver and even unload the goods; and 5) product documentation is always correct, meaning lower risk of being fined by the authorities (Tiszai 2022).

In order to reduce costs, many small, local kitchens have been closed down, while the kitchens currently in operation cover larger areas and cater for larger numbers of children. According to the Association of Hungarian Public Caterers [Magyar Közétkeztetők Szövetsége], between 4,000 and 6,000 consumers are served by each member company (Tiszai 2022). Experience has shown that smaller, local kitchens have closer personal contact (direct communication and feedback) with educational institutions and are more flexible in responding to local needs, although economic pressures and regulatory requirements are creating a push towards more standardized “industrialized catering.”

Conclusion

In the long term, the evolution of modern societies has led to a two-way process in terms of alimentation. In parallel with the delocalization of industrial-scale production, nutrition has increasingly become disconnected from the seasons, with diminishing differences between urban/rural and everyday/celebratory meals. Similarly, the extreme differences in diet between people at opposite poles of society have also decreased. The reduction in these differences has been accompanied by increased selection, even if the consumption of mass-produced meals has been interpreted by many as a regression in terms of alimentation (Andor 1997a; Beardsworth – Keil 1997; Mennell 1997).

The shift in eating from a demonstration of local identity towards uniformity (Nickel 2022), while breaking down earlier barriers has also eroded earlier benefits. However, the resurgence of local specialties has already begun in many places. In the shorter term, a similar process can be observed in the case of school meals. Food prepared in small, local kitchens, using local ingredients, by actors who are part of the local society, are apparently being replaced by larger, not necessarily local, catering kitchens that can produce more food — on an industrial scale — for the same budget.

The impact of current/future economic hardship is likely to lead to a higher uptake of school catering, despite the decline in the number of children. On the other hand, rising costs will make the situation of those involved in financing and providing the service increasingly difficult. The need to control costs may increasingly lead to the emergence of more cost-effective, higher-capacity catering kitchens. The challenges and pressures associated with the trends outlined above need to be addressed, and the potential inherent in this structure must be exploited.

Note

The present study is based on a presentation delivered at the interdisciplinary conference “The Social Embeddedness of Public Catering for Children” organized by the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Humanities Research Centre, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore, and the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (June 21–22, 2022).

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  • Molnár, Szilvia 2020 Az óvodai közétkeztetés, – mint az egészségtudatosság formálásának, a táplálkozási magatartásnevelés egyik színterének – megítélése a szülők és az élelmezésvezetők részéről [The Perception among Parents and Catering Managers of Public Catering in Kindergartens as an Arena for the Development of Health Awareness and Nutritional Behavior Education]. Doctoral dissertation. Budapest: Semmelweis University Doctoral School of Pathological Sciences. http://old.semmelweis.hu/wp-content/phd/phd_live/vedes/export/disszert%C3%A1ci%C3%B3.pdf, accessed December 10, 2022.

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  • Nagy, Bea 2014 Nemek forradalma? Közeledés a nemek helyzetében [Gender Revolution? Convergence in the Gender Situation]. Replika 85–86:177191.

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    • Export Citation
  • Nagy, BeaFodor, Éva 2015 A gazdasági válság hatásai a férfiak és a nők munkaerő-piaci helyzetére Kelet-Közép-Európában [The Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Labor Market Position of Men and Women in East Central Europe]. Szociológiai Szemle 25:222.

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    • Export Citation
  • Nickel, Vira Réka 2022 Menza ízek – menza élmények a Kádár-korszakban. Absztrakt [School Meal Flavors — School Meal Experiences in the Kádár Era. Abstract]. Kádár-korszak, kádárizmus, korlátozott mozgástér: magyar modell? Országos jelenkor-történeti konferencia, Miskolc, 2022. szeptember 1–3.

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  • Nyikos, GyörgyiSoós, Gábor Gergely 2018 A közszolgáltatás-szervezés, a közfeladat-ellátás stratégiai szervezési ismerete [Public Service Organization, Strategic Organizational Knowledge of Public Service Supply]. Budapest: NKE. http://real.mtak.hu/89943/1/Kozszervezes2018.pdf, accessed December 12, 2022.

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  • Petróczi, Gábor 2020 A módosított Nemzeti alaptanterv bevezetésével kapcsolatos szakmai teendők [Professional Tasks Related to the Introduction of the Revised National Curriculum]. https://www.petroczigabor.hu/cikkek/igazgato_kollegaknak/modositott_nat_bevezetese.html, accessed December 7, 2022.

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    • Export Citation
  • Salmon, Pierre 1987 Decentralisation as an Incentive Scheme. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 3(2):2443.

  • Samuelson, Paul A. 1954 The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure. Review of Economics and Statistics 35(4):387389.

  • Samuelson, Paul A.Nordhaus, William D. 2012 Közgazdaságtan [Economics]. Budapest: Akadémiai.

  • Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2000 A kormányzati szektor gazdaságtana [Economics of the Public Sector]. Budapest: KJK Kerszöv.

  • Szalai, Ákos 1999 A magyar önkormányzatok közszolgáltatási lehetőségei [The Public Service Opportunities of Hungarian Local Governments]. Budapest: Kanadai Urbanisztikai Intézet.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Szalai, Ákos 2002 Fiskális föderalizmus [Fiscal Federalism]. Közgazdasági Szemle 49(5):424440.

  • Szalai, Ákos 2007 Teljesítmény-költségvetés technikák és külhoni tapasztalatok [Performance Budgeting Techniques and Experiences in Other Countries]. Kormányzás, Közpénzügyek, Szabályozás 2(2):149176.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thaler, Richard H.Sunstein, Cass R. 2011 Nudge [Nudge]. Budapest: Manager.

  • Tátrai, Tünde 2009 Verseny a közbeszerzési piacon [Competition on the Public Procurement Market]. Közgazdasági Szemle 55(9):835848.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tiszai, Balázs 2022 Nem az új szabálycsavarás viszi sírba a menzás cégeket, de már alig állnak a lábukon [It’s not the New Rules that are Bringing School Catering Companies Down, but They’re Barely Standing on Their Feet]. HVG online, April 21, 2022. https://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20220411_Nem_az_uj_szabalycsavaras_viszi_sirba_a_menzas_cegeket_de_mar_eleve_alig_allnak_a_labukon, accessed February 12, 2023.

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Katalin Kelemen is an economist, economic sociologist, and associate professor at the Faculty of Law of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. She obtained a PhD in sociology from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences in 2002. Her fields of research include the sociology of entrepreneurs/businesses. She is currently carrying out research into entrepreneurs in the period of the change of political regime, in the framework of the “Lendület” (Momentum) Program's Labor Forms Research Group within the Hungarian Academy of Sciences' Research Centre for the Humanities.

1

The most widely accepted definition of economic efficiency is referred to as “Pareto efficiency.” It occurs “when there is no other reorganization of production or consumption that will increase the satisfaction of one person without reducing the satisfaction of another person” (Samuelson – Nordhaus 2012:4).

2

Between the two poles we find so-called non-pure public goods, or mixed goods, where the private and public character is mixed.

3

That is, the determination of the price and the quantity demanded/offered.

4

E.g., children's life chances should not be dependent on the financial situation of their parents (Stiglitz 2000).

5

Preschool is compulsory from the age of three: few parents ask for an exemption. Eduline, March 25, 2019, https://eduline.hu/kozoktatas/20190325_haromeves_kortol_kotelezo_ovoda, accessed February 10, 2023.

6

The OGYÉI surveys are based on a representative sample of Hungary's elementary and high schools, from a regional perspective. See (including methodology): https://ogyei.gov.hu/menza, accessed February 5, 2023.

7

The conceptual typology of Hirschman (1995) is adapted by Molnár (2020).

8

Meal discount, children's catering. Csalad.hu, March 9, 2021, https://csalad.hu/tamogatasok/etkezesi-dijkedvezmeny, accessed January 20, 2023.

9

The structure of financing is analyzed in greater detail below.

10

“The public catering regulation defines the range of foods and types of foods (vegetables, fruits, grains) to be provided daily, the frequency and quantity of milk, dairy products, meat, and meat products, etc. per 10 catering days. It defines specifications for use (e.g., quantity of milk or dairy products), restrictions and prohibitions on certain foods and meals (e.g., allergenic ingredients, fat, sugar, salt, carbonated and sugary soft drinks). It lays down requirements in relation to the meals provided (e.g., dietary planning rules, ingredient portion sheet, variety index), information requirements for calculated energy, fat, saturates, protein, carbohydrates, sugar, calculated salt, and allergenic ingredients, as defined in the Ministerial Decree on food labelling. It prescribes the conditions for the provision of dietetic foods and defines the conditions for the staff of the service providers and the system of official supervision.” (FH Gasztro Kft., https://www.fhgasztro.hu/rolunk/ettermek-uzemeltetese/, accessed February 1, 2023)

11

Or, e.g., (Andor 1997b) on the special social role of meat.

12

The way in which even the smallest details can affect people's behavior is clearly illustrated by an experiment performed by Thaler, a prominent figure in the field of behavioral economics, who found that in a buffet-style cafeteria, the consumption of certain foods increased by 25% by moving the respective foods to different positions (Thaler – Sunstein 2011).

13

Many schools do not allow this.

14

“The social demand for a change in the national curriculum indicated an elemental and unequivocal need for a substantial reduction in the total weekly number of compulsory, or rather compulsory and optional, lessons for pupils in elementary and high schools, as well as a reduction in the number of lessons that can be taught during one school day.” On the national curriculum, as amended in 2020, see Petróczi 2020.

15

For example, the cost of the raw ingredients, the cost of the energy used for cooking (e.g., gas).

16

Time spent planning the menu and cooking, and energy costs. There are two commonly used methods in economics for estimating the cost of housework. One is to investigate the cost of obtaining the same service on the market. The other method of estimation is to calculate the income/revenue foregone by the person doing the housework, as a result of doing unpaid work during the time they spent on housework.

17

Interview with the head of the public procurement department of a county local authority (conducted by the author in spring 2022).

18

Not entirely independently. For example, during Covid-19 pandemic, a ban was imposed on increasing fees.

19

This estimate is taken from the interview (2022) with the head of the public procurement department of a county local authority.

20

A public-private partnership, or PPP, refers to the delivery of public services in the form of a partnership between the public sector and private capital. The state involves the private sector in the design, construction, maintenance, financing, and operation of the facilities, institutions, and equipment needed to deliver public services. The public partner reimburses the value of the investment and the costs of operation in the form of a fee paid to the operator. At the end of the operating period, the assets and operating rights are transferred to the public partner.

21

Targeted beneficiaries of the public service receive vouchers (quasi money) that they can spend on the market in a predefined way.

22

Less work, taking home food/leftovers, etc.

23

Interview with the head of the public procurement department of a county local authority.

24

At the end of 2020, Government Decree 676/2020 (12/28/2020) on the public procurement of public catering, had the main objective of improving the quality of public catering. The regulations were applicable to public procurements after September 1, 2021. The decree stipulates that from 2022, at least 60% (and from 2023 at least 80%) of products used in public catering must be purchased in short supply chains or must be local food products. Economic operators offering public catering services in public tenders must also include in their application certificates for kitchens that are no more than three years old. Article 5(1) of the decree states that “Contracting authorities may not use the criterion of lowest price as the sole evaluation criterion for awarding public catering services.” Under the new rules, “preference” is given, for example, to applicants that: 1) use a higher proportion of products obtained in short supply chains or local food products than the mandatory percentage; 2) take into account and document consumer feedback; 3) provide more fruits and vegetables than the requirement; and 4) provide dietetic meals. Related regulations: Act XLVI of 2008, Article 23(5) on the food chain and official supervision; Government Decree 676/2020 (12/28) on special rules for public procurement procedures for public catering. Official versions of the decrees are available from: National Law Library, https://njt.hu/, accessed February 22, 2023.

25

An important criterion of relations involving the exchange of favors is the symmetrical social situation of the parties involved, where the parties strive to maintain their symmetrical relationship — that is, to “repay” in full the favors they have received. There are, however, situations in which the social position of the giver and the recipient of the favor are not identical, which also breaks the symmetry. Those in a more favorable social situation may endeavor to give more favors than they receive, thus keeping their clients in a permanent state of indebtedness. Such relationships are commonly referred to as patron–client relationships; they can occur both inside and outside the work organization as a complement to market coordination (Kuczi 2011:66).

26

Which “includes other mechanisms to support the enforcement of contractual promises, such as sanctions linked to market reputation, the exchange of guarantees between the contracting parties, the involvement of external experts in the resolution of disputes, the development of trust norms within the relationship, etc.” (Mike 2013:3)

27

An investment that is closely linked to public catering and that cannot be used for other activities.

28

A subjective factor such as taste, for example.

29

Certain specifications and conditions must be met, such as the employment of a dietician, although it is possible to rent kitchens and equipment.

30

This opinion is taken from the interview (2022) with the head of the public procurement department of a county local authority.

31

The optimal operational size is the output with the lowest average cost.

32

From January 1, 2022, at least 60% (and from January 1, 2023 at least 80%) of the total value of the products purchased must come from short supply chains or must have been produced locally (Tiszai 2022). There are several objectives behind this goal: on the one hand, to favor healthy, locally grown ingredients (with lower transportation costs), and on the other hand to stimulate the local economy.

  • Andor, Mihály 1997a Az élelem megesz bennünket [Food Eats Us]. Replika 27:8384.

  • Andor, Mihály 1997b Húsosfazék, avagy a hús különleges társadalmi szerepe [Stew Pot, or the Peculiar Social Role of Meat]. Replika 27:117142.

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  • Beardsworth, AlanKeil, Teresa 1997 A modern táplálékrendszer kialakulása [The Making of the Modern Food System]. Replika 27:93101.

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  • Cullis, JohnJones, Philip 2003 Közpénzügyek és közösségi döntések [Public Finance and Public Choice]. Budapest: AULA.

  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta 2009 The Incomplete Revolution. Adapting to Women’s New Roles. Cambridge: Polity.

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  • Hirschman, Albert O. 1995 Kivonulás, tiltakozás, hűség. Hogyan reagálnak vállalatok, szervezetek és államok hanyatlására az érintettek? [Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States]. Budapest: Osiris.

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  • Hoffman, István 2009 Önkormányzati közszolgáltatások szervezése és igazgatása [The Organization and Management of Municipal Public Services]. Budapest: ELTE Eötvös.

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  • Kuczi, Tibor 2011 Kisvállalkozás és társadalmi környezet [Small Enterprises and the Social Environment]. Budapest: Jelenkutató Alapítvány. https://dtk.tankonyvtar.hu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/7441/0010_2A_11_Kuczi_Tibor_Kisvallalkozas_es_tarsadalmi_kornyezet.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, accessed January 10, 2023.

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  • Lapsánszky, András 2009 A közszolgáltatás fogalmának, tartalmának, tagolásának általános alapjai a hírközlési szolgáltatási rendszer mintáján keresztül [The General Foundations of the Concept, Content, and Structuring of Public Services through the Example of the Communications Service System]. Jog, Állam, Politika 1(3):66109. https://dfk-online.se.hu/images/J%C3%81P/2009/3/Laps%C3%A1nszky.pdf, accessed January 10, 2023.

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  • Losonczi, Ágnes 1977 Az életmód az időben, a tárgyakban és az értékekben [Lifestyle through Time, Objects, and Values]. Budapest: Gondolat.

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  • Mennell, Stephen 1997 Csökkenő különbségek, növekvő választék [All Manners of Food]. Replika 27:93103.

  • Mike, KárolySzalai, Ákos 2012 Önkormányzati szerződések közgazdasági elemzése. A közétkeztetési szolgáltatási szerződések tanulságai [Economic Analysis of Local Authority Contracts. Lessons from Public Catering Service Contracts]. Pro Publico Bono Támop special issue:120.

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  • Mike, Károly 2013 Az írott szerződések szerepe a hosszabb távú üzleti kapcsolatokban: a közétkeztetés példája [The Role of Written Contracts in Longer-Term Business Relationships. The Example of Public Catering]. In Katona, KláraSzalai, Ákos (eds.) Hatékony-e a magyar jog?, 287323. Budapest: Pázmány Press.

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  • Molnár, Szilvia 2020 Az óvodai közétkeztetés, – mint az egészségtudatosság formálásának, a táplálkozási magatartásnevelés egyik színterének – megítélése a szülők és az élelmezésvezetők részéről [The Perception among Parents and Catering Managers of Public Catering in Kindergartens as an Arena for the Development of Health Awareness and Nutritional Behavior Education]. Doctoral dissertation. Budapest: Semmelweis University Doctoral School of Pathological Sciences. http://old.semmelweis.hu/wp-content/phd/phd_live/vedes/export/disszert%C3%A1ci%C3%B3.pdf, accessed December 10, 2022.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nagy, Bea 2014 Nemek forradalma? Közeledés a nemek helyzetében [Gender Revolution? Convergence in the Gender Situation]. Replika 85–86:177191.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nagy, BeaFodor, Éva 2015 A gazdasági válság hatásai a férfiak és a nők munkaerő-piaci helyzetére Kelet-Közép-Európában [The Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Labor Market Position of Men and Women in East Central Europe]. Szociológiai Szemle 25:222.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nickel, Vira Réka 2022 Menza ízek – menza élmények a Kádár-korszakban. Absztrakt [School Meal Flavors — School Meal Experiences in the Kádár Era. Abstract]. Kádár-korszak, kádárizmus, korlátozott mozgástér: magyar modell? Országos jelenkor-történeti konferencia, Miskolc, 2022. szeptember 1–3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nyikos, GyörgyiSoós, Gábor Gergely 2018 A közszolgáltatás-szervezés, a közfeladat-ellátás stratégiai szervezési ismerete [Public Service Organization, Strategic Organizational Knowledge of Public Service Supply]. Budapest: NKE. http://real.mtak.hu/89943/1/Kozszervezes2018.pdf, accessed December 12, 2022.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petróczi, Gábor 2020 A módosított Nemzeti alaptanterv bevezetésével kapcsolatos szakmai teendők [Professional Tasks Related to the Introduction of the Revised National Curriculum]. https://www.petroczigabor.hu/cikkek/igazgato_kollegaknak/modositott_nat_bevezetese.html, accessed December 7, 2022.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Salmon, Pierre 1987 Decentralisation as an Incentive Scheme. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 3(2):2443.

  • Samuelson, Paul A. 1954 The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure. Review of Economics and Statistics 35(4):387389.

  • Samuelson, Paul A.Nordhaus, William D. 2012 Közgazdaságtan [Economics]. Budapest: Akadémiai.

  • Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2000 A kormányzati szektor gazdaságtana [Economics of the Public Sector]. Budapest: KJK Kerszöv.

  • Szalai, Ákos 1999 A magyar önkormányzatok közszolgáltatási lehetőségei [The Public Service Opportunities of Hungarian Local Governments]. Budapest: Kanadai Urbanisztikai Intézet.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Szalai, Ákos 2002 Fiskális föderalizmus [Fiscal Federalism]. Közgazdasági Szemle 49(5):424440.

  • Szalai, Ákos 2007 Teljesítmény-költségvetés technikák és külhoni tapasztalatok [Performance Budgeting Techniques and Experiences in Other Countries]. Kormányzás, Közpénzügyek, Szabályozás 2(2):149176.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thaler, Richard H.Sunstein, Cass R. 2011 Nudge [Nudge]. Budapest: Manager.

  • Tátrai, Tünde 2009 Verseny a közbeszerzési piacon [Competition on the Public Procurement Market]. Közgazdasági Szemle 55(9):835848.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tiszai, Balázs 2022 Nem az új szabálycsavarás viszi sírba a menzás cégeket, de már alig állnak a lábukon [It’s not the New Rules that are Bringing School Catering Companies Down, but They’re Barely Standing on Their Feet]. HVG online, April 21, 2022. https://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20220411_Nem_az_uj_szabalycsavaras_viszi_sirba_a_menzas_cegeket_de_mar_eleve_alig_allnak_a_labukon, accessed February 12, 2023.

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2022  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
not indexed
Journal Impact Factor not indexed
Rank by Impact Factor

not indexed

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
not indexed
5 Year
Impact Factor
not indexed
Journal Citation Indicator not indexed
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

not indexed

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
8
Scimago
Journal Rank
0.101
Scimago Quartile Score

Cultural Studies (Q4)
Demography (Q4)
Music (Q4)

Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
0.3
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Music 101/167 (39th PCTL)
Cultural Studies 795/1203 (33rd PCTL)
Demography 117/135 (13th PCTL)
Scopus
SNIP
Demography 117/135 (13th PCTL)

2021  
Web of Science  
Total Cites
WoS
not indexed
Journal Impact Factor not indexed
Rank by Impact Factor

not indexed

Impact Factor
without
Journal Self Cites
not indexed
5 Year
Impact Factor
not indexed
Journal Citation Indicator not indexed
Rank by Journal Citation Indicator

not indexed

Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
7
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,1
Scimago Quartile Score Cultural Studies (Q4)
Demography (Q4)
Music (Q4)
Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
0,3
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Music 77/153 (Q3)
Cultural Studies 630/1127 (Q3)
Demography 103/124 (Q4)
Scopus
SNIP
0,000

2020  
Scimago
H-index
6
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,127
Scimago
Quartile Score
Cultural Studies Q3
Demography Q4
Music Q2
Scopus
Cite Score
29/78=0,4
Scopus
Cite Score Rank
Cultural Studies 482/1037 (Q2)
Demography 83/109 (Q4)
Music 61/147 (Q2)
Scopus
SNIP
0,216
Scopus
Cites
39
Scopus
Documents
21
Days from submission to acceptance 29
Days from acceptance to publication 236

 

2019  
Scimago
H-index
5
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,142
Scimago
Quartile Score
Cultural Studies Q2
Demography Q4
Music Q2
Scopus
Cite Score
23/79=0,3
Scopus
Cite Score Rank
Cultural Studies 508/1002 (Q3)
Demography 83/104 (Q4)
Music 60/142 (Q2)
Scopus
SNIP
0,568
Scopus
Cites
28
Scopus
Documents
28

 

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Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Language English
Size B5
Year of
Foundation
1950
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
2
Founder Magyar Tudományos Akadémia
Founder's
Address
H-1051 Budapest, Hungary, Széchenyi István tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 1216-9803 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2586 (Online)