HCM City wants to improve school meals

  • 09:01 - 2013/09/06

With students having meals at school, it is vital to improve the quality of the menus to ensure children"s good health and improve their physical stature, experts have said.


Sstudents having lunch at a school in HCM City. Photo by Saigonnews
Nguyen Tai Dung, deputy head of the HCM City Education and Training Department"s school medicine division, said almost 561,000 students have lunch in the city"s schools.

Many schools face challenges in devising appropriate lunches to ensure nutrition and improve the condition of children with obesity or malnutrition, Dung said.

Because of their lack of knowledge of nutrition, they serve poor food which does not meet the calorie or nutritional needs of the students, he added.

A study of 400 primary schools by the HCM City Nutrition Centre found that only 6.2 percent of kitchen managers in schools have healthcare diplomas.

"It is very important to have a standard menu for schools," Dung said.

His department has been working with the nutrition centre and Ajinomoto Vietnam Company on a project to improve the quality of school meals.

Launched last year, the project could help achieve targets set under the National Strategy on Nutrition, Dung said, adding that a common menu has been issued for primary schools together with a book to educate nursemaids in the nutritional values of foods for children.

Nguyen Le Thu, deputy head of the District 11 education division, said the schools can afford the menu.

Eight public primary schools in the district have been using the menu for lunch and snacks since March last year, she said.

In the beginning, children were not keen on eating the lunch because it included a lot of vegetables. "But things have changed," Thu said.

The division polled 4,480 primary-school students and found that 61.25 percent of them like the menu and 62.81 percent feel healthier.

Thu said the menu will help create the habit of eating plenty of vegetables at home as well.

Do Thi Ngoc Diep, head of the HCM City Nutrition Centre, said the menu should be used at more primary schools around the city. She added that she will petition for its use nation-wide.

At many schools, lunch provides only 60 percent of children"s calorific needs, 36.7 percent of calcium, 31.5 percent of iron, 37 percent of Vitamin A, 47.7 percent of Vitamin B1 and 27.7 percent of Vitamin B2, she said.

These are vital for children"s growth, she said. On the other hand, obesity among students, especially at the primary level, has increased since 2002, she warned, blaming it on changes in eating habits.

Primary-school students now eat only 30 percent of the vegetables recommended and 50 percent of fruits, leading to obesity, she said.

The centre"s research showed that 38.5 percent of primary-school students in the city were obese in 2009 compared to 19.8 percent in 2002, she said. Among secondary-school students, the rate was 22.6 percent in 2009 compared to 8.1 percent in 2002, she added.

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