With Taiwan's Children's Day just around the corner, Premier Su Tseng-chang on Thursday announced expanded payments and upgrades aimed at improving school food programs in remote areas, so that rural students can enjoy equal standards and rights when it comes to meals served on campus. These include increased subsidies for sourcing food served in remote schools, as well as the expansion of centralized kitchens and a new system for collective purchasing. With primary and middle school students throughout the nation growing up healthy and happy, succeeding generations will reap the benefits, said the premier.
Premier Su's remarks came after a presentation by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on its plan to expand centralized meal preparation for schools in remote areas.
Only about a quarter of Taiwan's roughly 1,100 remote rural schools are now served by centralized kitchens, the premier said. Furthermore, the long distances involved in centralized food service for rural schools push up personnel and overhead expenses to the extent that only 70 percent of money for school lunches is actually spent on food. This leads to a gap between remote and urbanized areas in terms of the quality and safety of lunches provided.
To give remote schoolchildren the rights and access to the same quality of food, the government will devote NT$3.5 billion (US$122.7 million) to not only increasing lunch ingredient subsidies, but also establishing central kitchens for schools that lack central kitchen services. A collective procurement mechanism for meal ingredients will also be established, while the MOE will coordinate the manpower required by the central kitchens such as kitchen workers and nutritionists. These measures will ensure that the great majority of school lunch funding is actually spent on food, the premier said.
Alongside this remote school lunch program, the MOE rolled out a project last year to improve classroom safety at schools nationwide, and another to install air conditioning in every classroom by March next year. All of these large-scale programs are intended to provide children across the nation with the most extensive, practical and equitable benefits.