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Officials retool school lunch program

Officials retool school lunch program Students have free lunch in Xinglong Primary School in Bijie, Southwest China’s Guizhou province, in...

Officials retool school lunch program

Students have free lunch in Xinglong Primary School in Bijie, Southwest China’s Guizhou province, in April. (ZHU XINGXIN / CHINA DAILY)

China's education authority has identified eight ways it can improve its free school meals program, which has been marred by a series of food poisoning cases and complaints about poor standards. 
Speaking at a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday about the government's school nutrition program, Vice-Minister of Education Lu Xin said local authorities must prioritize self-monitoring and examinations, adding that central authorities will also perform thorough inspections. 
It is also necessary to implement operational plans as well as improve training and guidance. 
Lu also drew attention to the subject of cafeteria establishment and management, adding that publicity is needed to ensure information remains available to the public. 
The ability of local governments to deal with food emergencies was discussed at the meeting as well. If an emergency happens, provincial authorities are required to arrive on site immediately. 
Lu said communication must be improved so that administrators can share their experience. 
Deng Fei, initiator of the charitable movement Free Lunch for Children, attended the meeting and saw it as a communication channel between authorities and non-governmental organizations. 
"However, I'd rather see more non-governmental involvement in the plan," Deng said, adding an example that parents are the group who have the strongest motivation to improve their children's nutrition. 
"If schools have a parents union to monitor the budget or buy food, educational authorities might save a lot." 
Yuan Guilin, a professor from Beijing Normal University, suggested central authorities build kitchens instead of subsidizing food. 
"Instead of monitoring the process of purchasing, why not build a standard kitchen and hire professional cooks?" 
The nutrition project was launched in October last year with the aim of improving nutrition for rural students. 
The central government is spending an estimated 16 billion yuan ($2.5 billion) a year to improve the standards of school cafeterias in poor areas, and the program has benefited about 26 million primary and middle school students in nearly 700 counties. Those students each receive a daily lunch worth 3 yuan for free. 
However, media reports have exposed many problems about the operation of the project, including food poisoning and lack of facilities. 
On May 3, the Ministry of Education posted hotlines on its official website asking the public to supervise the operation of the school nutrition program and requiring local authorities to focus on food safety during the operation. 
According to Xinhua News Agency, central authorities received 19 calls and 81 e-mails between March 15 and May 1. Some complained that none of the promised free meals were provided, while others said the food was low quality. 
Authorities have vowed to verify feedback and solve the problems, Xinhua reported. 



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AboutMicro News: Officials retool school lunch program
Officials retool school lunch program
AboutMicro News
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