Free breakfast for students tasty idea, but parents want it done properly

A preschool student eats breakfast on her first day of school in Puchong January 2, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
A preschool student eats breakfast on her first day of school in Puchong January 2, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 — Parent groups welcomed the government’s proposal to provide free nutritious breakfast to children from the bottom 40 per cent (B40), but wanted the programme to be thought through.

Citing the existing Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) as an example, which was introduced by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government, Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said schools faced several problems, including the timing of the food distribution.

“The implementation will not be easy, such as the RMT. If you give it in the morning for breakfast, many students come to school late and will miss it.

“A lot of them are not used to taking breakfast early in the morning. So, in order to ensure success, the Education Ministry needs to instil discipline in the parents to ensure children are sent to school early and enjoy their breakfast,” Mak told Malay Mail.

He added that a nutritious breakfast would complement the current RMT food plan.

Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said such programmes could help with absenteeism problems as students would most likely look forward to taking their breakfast with their friends in school.

She said it could also help with punctuality and parents do not need to rush in the morning to prepare breakfast for their children before coming to school.

“Breakfast most important meal of the day and a lot of students skip the meal because they need to rush in the morning. Aside from addressing empty stomach, they should also look into providing proper nutrition during breakfast.

“Although it would be good if this was open to all students, but we have to start somewhere and there are a lot of B40 children who need the attention,” said Noor Azimah.

She stressed quality control was important and operators should not take advantage of the students, who should be allowed to give feedback.

Gleneagles Penang dietary advisor and clinical dietitian Eileen Chan said Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s idea to provide free food for B40 students was a good move.

“I welcome such a move and the government should provide it to those [who] deserve [it]. Some who are unfortunate and have many children can’t afford sufficient food for the family.

“I remember during my secondary time, the convent school used to serve breakfast with only two slices of bread with margarine and jam, which was not healthy,” she said.

She suggested a healthy meal like an egg, bread or rice with vegetables to start the day.

“We need good cholesterol for the brain to stimulate hormones and other internal organs. 

“If we provide proper food for kids, they can concentrate and learn better,” she said.

On Wednesday, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said a food aid programme for school students had been implemented since 1979, pointing out that funding was reduced for the existing RMT food aid plan under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

The programme provides RM2.50 per person daily for peninsular Malaysia and RM3 per person daily for students in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

On Tuesday, Maszlee said that the government was looking into developing a breakfast scheme following a visit to the Itabashi Daiichi Elementary School, in Itabashi-ku, Tokyo.

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