Why don’t cafeterias source food from small, local companies? Blame an obscure, profitable “kickback” system.

Most cafeterias—from sports stadiums to public schools—outsource their operations to food service giants like Aramark and Sodexo. But these companies don’t entirely depend on day-to-day business for revenue. Rather, they derive a significant portion of their profit from an obscure “kickback” system, in which large food suppliers like Pepsi and Sysco offer sizable rebates in exchange for large purchase quantities. This “bulk discount” arrangement shuts out smaller food suppliers and those who can’t afford to provide kickbacks, resulting in a food system dominated by big suppliers and management companies, according to food sustainability advocates. One potential solution? They’re calling for school administrators to mandate some purchasing from small or local suppliers in their contracts with management companies. Food and Power reports.

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