Malaysia, a country in Asia with the capital of Kuala Lumpur was the country I have been researching and representing about. Focusing on its food security, maternal mortality, poverty, and population, the last topic I would like to focus on is Education. More specifically education and food meaning their school foods. What is Malaysia’s current situation and take on school foods and its nutrition. Malaysia’s education system is divided into 4 parts. 6 years of primary education from seven years of age, three years of lower secondary education, two years of upper secondary education and two years of pre-university secondary study.
Their school year is from January to November in normal schools, and in universities some offer a third semester for students that want to graduate early. The types of schools in Malaysia are primary, private, and International.
Normal school lunches look like these: Lunch Menu at a Malaysian School As well as Lunch Menu at a Malaysian School These school lunches are around 60 us cents each given at school in Malaysia.
As you can see on the noodle there are chilies, which is a given thing that Malaysian children are fed chilies or very strongly tasted foods from early ages. Their foods have a Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Thai influences in them creating meals from curry soups to dal. Their main portion of the menu usually consist of rice or noodles and a side of fruits and vegetables with a drink. As you can see the bottom picture does not have fruits, instead is replaced with a sweet snack and a dark sugary drink.
This is where the problem arises that school lunches are not properly balanced in nutrition in Malaysia. It is a problem said that more nutritionists need to be trained at schools all over the country.
There are officially 448 nutritionists in the health ministry and only a few in the education ministry. The education ministry are the ones that deal with school nutrition, on the other hand health ministries are at clinics and implement nutrition programs to communities along with some activities. There was a program called C-HAT that targeted the parent teacher association (PTA) to reduce child obesity among school kids with the unhealthy meals they provide. 10,000 government schools around Malaysia should be in this C-HAT program by the end of this year 2018. On top of that student’s body mass index (BMI) are measured twice a year to see their body health. One international school, the Beaconhouse Newlands International School was a school to have a start on spreading the good nutrition foods for its students. Their meal consists of less carbs and fried food. The head master quotes “Having balanced, nutritious meals are often not prioritized here despite it being a vital component in maximizing one’s cognitive performance and development.
Pupils cannot learn effectively on a hungry stomach or with less than adequate nutrition in the food they consume.” They also work on cutting out processed carbs to 2-3 times a week and introducing more fibrous foods in the diet. Friend foods are limited to two options a day with other options being salads, sandwiches and/or fruits. Another international school called the British International School Kuala Lumpur has policies for their school food systems. Their school lunches are supervised by experts to see their balance for students, along with a system where parents can preselect their meals for their children. They also have a coffee bar at the school which I am not sure if its beneficial for students since caffeine since child is not a very ideal thing. They are also able to buy healthy snacks and drinks and allowed to bring healthy snacks from home if they wanted to. The school food is with a system where children from 1st grade can bring up their tray to make a meal of their choice from the variety the school gives.
There has been a free breakfast program that has been established in Malaysia, but some say that this policy of the free breakfast to students especially in families with low income fails to include the aspects of malnutrition due to its nutritious values they give. As changes were trying to be made, the education ministers proposal to give free breakfast meals to children was denied by the former prime minister. Although the food aid program has been done for school students since 1979, the funding for those have been recently reduced as well by the government. On top of that there are differences between the amount of aid you get depending on the city you live in. To help from this a supplementary food program was made which was for food aids to students from very poor households where the family income was below the national poverty line, or disabled students, or students that go to in orang asli or penan schools.
This program was made to counteract the negatives made from the food aid program and to increase in health, physical condition, eating habits, as well as to increase students’ attendances and academic performances in school. Some problems that occurred recently was an incident where the education minister of Malaysia slammed Lemban Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar for stating that the food supplementation program in primary schools were weak in terms of the nutritional values were lacking. This got a search on several schools within the country to finding that the poor houses still had children that were stunted and underweight. Now students are given the RMT food for 190 days a year during school sessions. A study was made with the title “How healthy is competitive food served at primary school in Malaysia?” The schools were from urban areas and 16 schools participated in this study. Out of those schools they found that 72.5% of food was dominated by carbohydrates, along with high fat foods which was 38.4%. High protein was below high fat foods and was 30.8% of the total foods. Added sugars were pretty high with 13.3% when milk and fruits were only 3.5% of the entire meal.
Vegetables marked the least with 0.7% of the entire meal. From this you can see that the school foods served, even with the programs made are still lacking in nutrition values and high in fats and carbs. One last thing I would like to share is the Malaysian dietary guidelines for children and adolescents. All of the above programs are under these guidelines which include: Exclusive breastfeeding for babies below 6 months and continue to breastfeed until 2 years of age, Appropriate complementary foods I children between the age of 6 months to 2 years, Eating a variety of foods within your recommended intake, Attaining healthy weight for optimum growth, Being physically active every day, Eating adequate amounts of rice, cereal or tubers, Eating fruits and vegetables every day, Consuming moderate amounts of fish, meat, poultry, egg, legumes, and nuts, Consuming milk and milk products every day, Including appropriate amounts and types of fats in the diet, Limiting the intake of salt and sauce, Consuming foods and beverages low in sugar, Drinking plenty of water daily.
Consuming safe and clean foods and beverages, and Educating children on the use of nutrition information on food label. From looking at programs, to studies, as well as problems that arose within the country we can see that there are many problems that still need to be addressed with the school foods system. It is important that people cooperate and talk to each other especially the ministries to conduct a better program that is realistic with the situation they are in right now. It is important that they spend more money towards kids that go to school since looking at what they had the nutrition values were not as good as the program tells it to be. I hope in the new future with the food aid program that more kids will have access to nutritious foods at least within school and have positive benefits towards academics.