Archive for the ‘Free Breakfast Programme (PSP)’ Category

Benefitting from the food plan

Monday, February 10th, 2020
Let’s eat: SK Seri Suria pupils having their breakfast under the revised RMT programme before school starts in the morning. Education director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim visited the school, which was one of the 100 schools selected for the first phase of the improved RMT programme. SYAMIMI ZAINAL/ THE STAR

It’s been three weeks since the improved version of the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) was introduced. People’s Housing Project (PPR) residents association chairmen speak to StarEdu on how the free food programme has helped the children in their schools and areas, while psychologists weigh the possible psychological effect on the pupils involved.

IT hasn’t been a month since the first phase of the newly improved Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) was introduced but SK Seri Suria, Kuala Lumpur headmistress can already see an improvement in her pupils.

Excitement in her voice, Rokiah Zakaria said her school is currently analysing her pupils’ attendance, the outcome of their classroom exercises and their achievement levels over the past month.

“Our pupils are more active during co curricular activities, teachers have reported that they are more attentive during lessons and that these kids don’t come in sleepy.

“The programme is a good initiative; pupils come to school eagerly and they don’t waste their food, contrary to popular opinion.

“Parents know of its benefit to their children so more have been requesting us to include their kids in the programme, ” she added.

First implemented in 1979, the first phase of the improved RMT began in 100 schools covering 4,000 pupils nationwide.

SK Seri Suria is one of the 100 schools selected for the launch.

The older RMT programme focused on pupils who belonged to the hardcore-poor category, disabled pupils and pupils in Orang Asli schools.

Now, more students are eligible for free food under the programme.

Education director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim said the ministry’s priority is the hardcore poor and poor pupils, and there are plans to expand the programme to other schools in the country, depending on approval for expansion and allocation.

“We have determined that these schools have the most number of poor pupils and are located close to the Housing Assistance Programme (PPRT), where 90% of the pupils are from, ” she said during the launch.

The programme has meals from over 20 menus prepared by school canteens, based on recommendations from the Health Ministry, which includes items such as nasi lemak, fruits, bihun goreng, milk and Milo.

People’s Housing Project (PPR) Kampung Muhibbah residents association chairmen Rosli Misanti said the 26 SK Seri Suria pupils selected for the programme seem more keen to go to school.

“The children are happier and are more cheerful.

“This programme is a blessing for these families as many of the parents who live in this area earn meager income by working as cleaners, lorry drivers and guards.

“Most of them can only afford to give their children pocket money worth between RM1 and RM2.

“These kids leave their homes at 6am and go to school hungry. Breakfast is important because it provides them sustenance and energy, ” he shared.

The RMT reduces parents’ burden, Rosli said, adding that he noticed how more families looked relieved as their children were selected for the programme.

The school previously had 18 pupils benefiting from the RMT.

PPR Pinggiran Bukit Jalil residents association chairmen Nazaria Othman is looking forward to the expansion of the programme to all primary schools in the country.

Many of the families who live in her area are single mothers, with some who have more than five children to care for.

“It’s a really good programme because it alleviates the poor’s burden.”

PPR Gombak Setia residents association chairmen Sazali Azman Atar shares that the school in the area, SK Setapak Indah, has been a part of the existing RMT programme.

“We can see the development and difference in the children who receive RMT.

“When we observe and compare them to how they were before, they are so much more active, especially in their cocurricular activities, after receiving the free food under the programme, ” he noted.

Sazali however also said that providing poor pupils with nutritious food is one step towards attracting them to school and ensuring they are more attentive during their lessons.

As most PPRs are located in socio-economically poor backgrounds, he said children often fall to bad vices early on.

“Such initiatives by the government are good but we must remember that many of these children don’t come from good family backgrounds.

“We hope the Government will continue providing the pupils with nutritious meals for them to develop healthy minds and bodies; the programme provides assistance to them.

“Of course it’s better to focus RMT for the poor but it will be better if it was expanded to all pupils, regardless of their economic background as the Government should take care of it’s people’s welfare.” While schools and PPR representatives have welcomed the improved RMT, some have questioned it’s psychological effect on the pupils involved.

SK Taman Megah Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) chairman Rodney Teoh believes the targeted approach may cause the poor pupils to feel belittled due to their socio-economic status.

“If it’s part of a school programme, it should be given to all pupils, ” he said.

While the RMT is a timely initiative, Malaysian Mental Health Association president Prof Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj feels the programme should have a more universal approach.

Programmes like the RMT, he said, have had successful results in other countries but attributed these successes to its approach of distributing food to every pupil in the school or particular class.

“You cannot have a system where only the poor are singled out for food distribution as it will have a negative psychological impact on students, especially if they are primary school children who are more prone to feel embarrassed, isolated and subject to taunts.

“In most parts of the world, this system has been introduced as an inclusive approach, so why the selective approach here?” he questioned.

Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) hosted a discussion in August last year titled ‘School Feeding Programmes and Other Mass Nutrition Initiatives’.

The discussion proposed school feeding as a policy option to improve the country’s nutritional value.

The proposal is based on the ‘Addressing Malnutrition in Malaysia’ report by public health researcher and former KRI visiting senior fellow Prof Dr Wan Manan Wan Muda, KRI senior advisor Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram and KRI research associate Tan Zhai Gen.

This report, KRI said, provides an overview of Malaysia’s nutrition status and policy options to address both micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

“The proposed school lunch programme tackles three challenges for schools and communities; ensuring food security, especially food safety, improving nutrition in schools and communities, improving student performance and promoting equality.

“The Education Ministry, Health Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry and other relevant government ministries and agencies must work together to ensure the food provided is safe, healthy, nutritious and improves farmers’ welfare, ” it added.


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Sabah tops free school breakfast list

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has the most number of schools selected for the improved Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) which kicked off nationwide Monday.

Priority is given to schools with the highest percentage of B40 in each state and taking into account all types of schools.

A total of 100 schools across the country have been selected for the programme, of which 13 schools involving 5,423 pupils are in Sabah.

State Education Director Mistirine Radin, while making her rounds monitoring the breakfast distribution at SK Kebagu noted there is still room for improvement.

“There is no problem in terms of food preparation, only the eating place. I believe the school will improve on this, perhaps add more chairs and tables for the pupils to have their breakfast in one place,” she said.

She also stressed the need to instil hygienic practices such as washing hands before meals. “Maybe we can also get pupils involved in leading prayers before every meal.

“The programme aims to provide nutritious supplements to pupils from low-income families with a monthly income of RM1,180 and below,” she said.

Pupils were seen enjoying their meal of nasi lemak, banana and a cup of hot milo. Among them was Primary Six Nurul Qharriah Pormin who thanked the government for providing the meal.

“My breakfast is usually bread or biscuits and a hot drink. It’s nice to be able to have something different,” said Nurul who comes from a family of fishermen.

The excitement was shared by two other Primary Four pupils, Aliff Naufal Azri and Mohd Shanil Mohd Noh. “It’s nice being able to have this delicious breakfast with our friends at school,” they quipped.

The schools in Sabah are SK Kebagu in Kota Kinabalu with 415 eligible pupils, SK Kulambai Kota Belud (401), SK Tandek Kota Marudu (451), SK St James (M) Kudat (425), SK Pinggan-Pinggan Pitas (403), SK Binsulok Beaufort (250), SK Kundasang Ranau (419), SK Penangah Telupid (335), SK Bukit Garam Kinabatangan (432), SK Kabogan Semporna (450), SK Umas-Umas Tawau (546), SK Nambayan Tambunan (283) and SK Pekan Nabawan Pensiangan (613).

The free breakfast programme was proposed by former Education Minister, Maszlee Malik last year to ensure that pupils have a nutritious meal to start their day.

The proposal, however, was not well received by some, including non-governmental organisation Community Empowerment Initiative Sabah, which pointed out in October last year that repairs on dilapidated schools are more urgent than free school breakfasts.

On Jan 16, Prime Minister cum acting Education Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, announced that the Ministry will proceed with the programme for national schools from Jan. 20.

The programme which initially aimed to benefit 2.7 million pupils is estimated to cost between RM800 million and RM1.67 billion and now only for eligible pupils from the low-income group.

The cost of implementing the programme is RM2.50 and RM3 per pupil in Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan. Breakfast time is between 7am and 7.30am for the morning session and 12.30pm and 2pm for afternoon session (except Friday at regular intervals).

Meanwhile, SK Kebagu Parent-Teacher Association Chairman, Marzuki Utuhmam hoped that every pupil attending the morning session would be included as well.

“We are told that only those eligible for the programme will be getting the assistance. However it would be best if all morning session pupil are listed because some might not have breakfast at home,” he said.

According to him, almost 90 per cent of parents in Kg Kebagu are fishermen. The school has 644 pupils but only 415 are eligible for the programme.

Meanwhile, Mistirine said influenza issues among school students is still under control in Sabah.

“As of Friday, we reported 12 pupils from eight primary schools across Sabah to the Education Ministry,” she said, adding that all are being treated in the hospital.

Also present was Kota Kinabalu District Education Officer, Tah Nia Jaman, and SK Kebagu Headmaster, Mazlan Osman, among others.

By: Sherell Jeffrey

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Free breakfast scheme for ‘deserving pupils’ lauded

Friday, January 17th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Parents welcome the decision by the government to provide free breakfast to deserving pupils in 100 schools.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said it would be quite a heavy financial burden to provide free meals to all primary school pupils.

He said those who qualify for the living aid should receive the free breakfast.

“I would also propose that instead of free food, these children should be given cash vouchers to be used in the school canteen for them to buy food like any other child, ” he said, adding that this would remove the stigma of being identified as “poor” among the pupils.

Mak was responding to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to provide free breakfasts for “deserving pupils”.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia honorary secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said the free breakfast programme, which begins on Monday, was the same as the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT), and that stringent guidelines need to be set up and enforced.

“It is a fully subsidised meal plan for pupils from poor families, ” she said, referring to the RMT.

She cautioned that the right vendors need to be chosen and continuously monitored to ensure the standard of the food provided will be maintained throughout the programme.

“To provide breakfast to everyone means even those who are rich and (can afford to have breakfast at home) will get them too. So, it’s not fair, ” said Dr Mahathir, who is also acting Education Minister, after officiating at the Balai Islam Complex at Tenaga Nasional Bhd headquarters in Bangsar.

Former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik had previously stated that the breakfast scheme would be for all pupils regardless of their parents’ income status.

The programme was initially for all 2.7 million pupils in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions.

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Breakfast programme to start in 100 schools on Jan 20

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Former Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (left) meets Year One pupil Syamillya Myazzarra (second left) who was accompanied by her father Muzzammil Hasshim (second right) on the first day of school at SK Setiawangsa on Thursday. — Bernama

THE first phase of the free breakfast programme (PSP) will be implemented on Jan 20 at 100 primary schools nationwide, said the Education Ministry.

The ministry said the cost of the project involving 37,000 pupils and 1,600 teachers on duty daily is estimated at RM22mil.

“The PSP will be held from 7am to 8.30am for the morning session and from 1pm to 4pm for the afternoon session according to the school management, ” the ministry said in a statement.

The implementation of the first phase of PSP will use the concept of Grab ‘n’ Go which is made up of a milk drink or nutritious drink and snacks such as bread, biscuits, cereal, kuih, sandwiches, fruits or hard boiled eggs.

Elaborating further, it said the selection of schools for the first phase was made based on schools with the highest percentage of pupils from the B40 group and also took into consideration all types of schools namely national primary schools, Chinese national-type primary schools and Tamil national-type primary schools.

The ministry said the selection of schools was based on the total number of schools carrying out the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) in each state encompassing all locations, urban, rural and interior.

“The implementation also took into consideration the views of the Health Ministry, which will allocate a nutrition science officer to each district to advise the school on the PSP menu.

“However, the permission of parents is required to obtain consent and important information on the health of pupils such as allergy to certain food so that an alternative menu is provided, ” it said.

The ministry is also planning to extend the programme to all 7,776 primary schools to benefit about 2.7 million students throughout the country.

However, it said the programme depended on the allocation received and the readiness of canteen operators and schools.

According to the ministry, continuous monitoring would be conducted with the cooperation of the Health Ministry so that the food provided is of quality to achieve the desired impact.

“Effective study on the programme will be carried out and will be tabled to improve the programme from time to time, ” it said.

The school breakfast programme is the latest initiative to provide nutritious food according to caloric value and a balanced diet to ensure pupils practise taking breakfast, a healthy lifestyle as well as to stimulate their growth.

Meanwhile, the Selangor Health Department has advised the parties involved in the Free Breakfast Programme (PSP) for school students to follow the food safety and quality standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The department’s director, Datuk Dr Khalid Ibrahim, said this includes proper hygiene, separating raw ingredients from cooked food, good cooking practices, keeping food at a safe temperature, and using safe water and raw materials.

“The food provided under the PSP should be hygienic and safe. Food safety during supply, preparation and storage must be taken seriously to prevent foodborne illnesses, especially food poisoning, ” he said in a statement.

Dr Khalid also urged students and teachers to practice the concept of ‘look, smell and taste’ before consuming the food provided under the programme.

“This practice can at least be among the mechanisms to save oneself from getting food poisoning, ” he said.

In the statement, Dr Khalid also welcomed the implementation of the programme, which was deemed beneficial for students.

“The objective of the programme that promotes a healthy lifestyle and stimulates students’ growth in a better way makes it beneficial to all students, ” he said.

The ministry in a statement earlier announced that phase one of the PSP would commence at 100 primary schools across the country on Jan 20, involving 37,000 students and 1,600 teachers.

by Bernama.

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RM800mil to RM1.67bil to be spent on Free Breakfast Programme for primary schools

Monday, December 30th, 2019


KUALA LUMPUR: Between RM800mil and RM1.67bil will be spent to provide free breakfasts to some 2.7 million primary school students nationwide next year, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (pic).

“Seven schools in four states are participating in a pilot project between September and November involving between 47 and 2,380 students.

“The pilot project involves urban, rural and Orang Asli schools which will be used as guidance for the Free Breakfast Programme to be implemented in primary schools throughout the country in January next year, ” he told by Sabri Azit (PAS-Jerai) in Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday (Oct 9).

He said two modules will be used for the programme which involves two different sets of menus.

He said the first module would require 30 minutes with a menu of a combination of cooked food and fruits.

“The second module would require 10 minutes and involves a menu of a combination of diary or healthy beverages and ‘ready to eat’ or ‘on the go’ snacks such as bread, cereals, biscuits, cakes and boiled eggs, ” he added.

Besides providing nutritious and healthy breakfasts to students, Dr Maszlee said that the programme will also provide the opportunity for teachers and students to bond when having breakfast together.

“Teachers will be able teach their students on healthy eating, being civic and table manners, ” he said, adding that students will be made to wash their own utensils.

“It is also good news for the teachers involved in the programme as they too will be provided with free breakfast, ” he said.

He added that a standard operating procedure will be implemented to avoid incidences of food poisoning.

He said that his ministry is working closely with five ministries and agencies including non-governmental organisations to implement the programme.

Earlier, Dr Maszlee said that some 70% of students skipped breakfast while the World Bank’s Report on Realising Human Potential noted that incidences of stunted growth in Malaysia was high.

The minister had announced the free breakfast programme in August aimed at ensuring that primary school students were provided with a healthy meal to start their day.

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Free breakfast for over 8,000 pupils in Sabah

Monday, December 30th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Over 8,000 pupils from 15 primary schools in Sabah will participate in the free breakfast programme (PSP) beginning January 20, said Sabah education director Dr Mistirine Radin (pic).

When contacted yesterday, she said the schools from 15 districts in Sabah were selected based on their high percentage of students from families in the B40 (low-income) group.

The schools are Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Penangah (Telupid), SK St James (Kudat), SK Tandek (Kota Marudu), SK Nambayan (Tambunan), SK Kabogan (Semporna), SK Bukit Garam (Kinabatangan), SK Pinggan-Pinggan (Pitas), SK Binsulok (Beaufort), SK Kuala Tomani (Tenom), SK Kebagu (Kota Kinabalu), SK Kulambai (Kota Belud), SK Pekan Nabawan (Pensiangan), SK Kundasang (Ranau), SK Sungai Anib 1 (Sandakan) and SK Umas-Umas (Tawau).

On Friday, the Education Ministry announced that the first phase of the programme will be implemented on January 20 in 100 primary schools across the country.

This phase will benefit 37,000 students and 1,600 teachers daily at an estimated cost of RM22 million.

Its implementation will be based on a Grab ‘n’ Go concept menu comprising nutritious drinks and simple food such as bread, biscuits, cereal snacks, local cakes, sandwiches, fruits and boiled eggs.

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Free breakfast for schools to include halal, vegetarian food.

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): The Free Breakfast Programme (PSP) will be implemented in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on food selection in boarding schools, the Dewan Negara was told Wednesday (Dec 11).

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the SOP would be in line with the eating habits of multiracial students by prioritising halal and vegetarian food.

“During registration they will indicate their (food) preference… we can follow the existing SOP, ” she said when replying to a question from Senator Datuk A. Kesavadas Nair.

About 2.7 million primary school pupils would be given free food under the programme slated to start in January next year.

by Bernama

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Nasi lemak, boiled eggs, newspapers

Sunday, October 20th, 2019
Education Minister Maszlee Malik handing over meals to schoolchildren in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 26. Don’t give the funds to a food company but give them to schools. This will make teachers and parents more aware of what to feed their children to boost their mental prowess and physical growth. FILE PIC

MANY mornings I meet Hashim at the nasi lemak stall not far from the school gate.

His two daughters are primary school pupils. Hashim normally buys two packets of nasi lemak of RM1 each and two packets of curry puffs of RM2 each.

They are for his daughters. Both Hashim and his wife are working and hardly have time to prepare breakfast for their children.

The couple always have breakfast on the go. “Makan dalam kereta je Bang. Takut lambat sampai ofis (We eat in the car on the way to office. We don’t want to be late),” Hashim once told me.

This is quite typical of office workers playing catch-up with time.

Hashim is not alone in this. Another couple in my neighbourhood send their children to a kindergarten nearby.

They, too, buy packed sandwiches for their son and daughter.

I bump into them quite often on my morning walk.

So when Education Minister Maszlee Malik announced that the government would provide breakfast for schoolchildren, this was welcome news to Hashim and others like him.

If and when fully implemented, Hashim would save time, reduce his early morning stress and save some money in the process.

For Hashim, it’s quite a bit of savings — RM30 for a school week.

In a urban environment, RM30 can cover quite a bit of domestic expenses.

This initiative of buying food for schoolchildren is a good idea, but one that needs more thinking.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, after one of his many travels to Japan, had asked the education minister to look into this programme.

The minister has yet to finalise details but the budget allocation is said to be very big.

A pilot project will be undertaken next year to see how this can be fully executed.

Perhaps there is still time to modify the proposed programme a bit to make it more holistic and fulfil a bigger scope.

I thought that an easier way to implement this would be to get the buy-in from school teachers and parent teacher associations. Get them involved.

Localise the implementation but monitor it closely. Proper and clear guidelines need to be introduced so that the children have proper nutrition — a balanced diet.

According to research undertaken by the World Economic Forum, children eat too little of what they need but too much of what they don’t!

Many of them eat processed food which is high in calories, fats, sodium and sugar; but low in vitamins and minerals.

Result? Overweight and obesity which lead to type two diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Surely we don’t want our schoolchildren to be exposed to such a dangerous situation at an early age, or at any age for that matter!

A balanced diet is important to a child’s growth, both physically and mentally.

Scientists in Britain can tell you that a proper breakfast helps schoolchildren to concentrate on their studies besides aiding them in memory recall.

This inadequate breakfast for schoolchildren is actually a global problem, said the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Its research showed that five years ago, children below 15 years old in Mexico, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, the United States and the United Kingdom had higher food insecurity problems than many other countries

At the other end, children in the same age group in Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Croatia and Germany had the least food insecurity problems.

In France, one in eight school-children has no daily breakfast.

So a breakfast programme for schoolchildren is also being adopted in that country, but with a slightly different approach.

It targets children from disadvantaged backgrounds and selected poor urban neighbourhoods.

So you see, the proposed breakfast programme is a good one, but requires fine-tuning.

To my mind, it must also embrace the local neighbourhood, with the emphasis on educating parents about what food is good and bad for their children.

So, rather than giving the funds to one big food company, give them to individual schools.

This will make teachers and parents become more aware of what they should feed their children to boost their mental prowess and enhance their physical growth.

By getting schools and PTAs involved, rapport between parents and teachers would improve.

Local food entrepreneurs can get some business, with a balanced diet formula in food preparation.

The project can create a new ecosystem for the food business. Over time, the benefits will be quite obvious.

But there must be strict adherance to quality control of the food to be supplied.

The Health Ministry must be involved, too, as should local councils. A new and much better supply chain can evolve from such a scheme.

Add one more item for these children: throw in some educational books and reading materials such as newspapers and novels.

A child’s formative years need to be fed not just with a balanced diet but with food for the intellect as well.

While we feed our children with proper food, we are also faced with another problem — children (and many adults too) don’t read enough. So let’s feed them with good and cheap reading materials — newspapers for one.

Maszlee may want to sit with corporate leaders, civil societies and non-governmental organisations to get them to embrace this programme.

By Ahmad A Talib.

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Breakfast for all

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

All pupils in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions will be enjoying free breakfast from 2020.

BREAKFAST is the most important meal of the day.

Come January 2020, the well-intentioned plan is to ensure all 2.7 million pupils throughout the country in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions have something to eat before they begin classes for the day.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced on Monday that this is the Free Breakfast Programme, or better known by its Malay acronym, PSP or Program Sarapan Percuma.

The programme will follow the same model as the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT).

So far, the only factor that differentiates the PSP from the RMT is that the new programme will benefit all primary school pupils across Malaysia.

The RMT however, is limited to those from households grouped below the national poverty line, with an allocation of RM289mil this year.

In 2018,489,117 schoolchildren in 7,316 schools throughout the country received the RMT.

Under the RMT programme, poor students nationwide are given complete meals with fresh fruits and a soya bean drink every morning.

More than 20 types of meals are provided under the RMT programme, which include chicken rice, nasi lemak, fried noodles, bee hoon, roti canai, lontong, soto, nasi paprik, cereals and soup noodles.

Maszlee said it is most important to ensure that pupils get a nutritious and balanced breakfast for their growth and cognitive development.

“Pupils will sit with their teachers, learn proper eating habits and discipline, such as washing their hands before eating, clearing up after their meal and so on, ” he added.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government has the budget for the PSP to be implemented in all primary schools next year.He said the government could use the consolidated fund from the various ministries and agencies to implement the programme to benefit the pupils.

Asked whether the government would use part of the soda tax revenue to fund the programme, Dr Mahathir said all proposals would be looked into.

“All taxes collected will be distributed to the ministries and agencies according to need. If there is a need for an additional allocation, we will consider.

“If we can afford it, we will provide it, ” he told Malaysian journalists after concluding his three-day official visit to Vietnam on Wednesday.

Asked about the perfect menu for the pupils’ breakfast, Dr Mahathir said there were many healthy menus which were suitable for the programme.

Saving grace

The PSP sounds like a dream come true for some parents who struggle to ensure their children get a chance to eat a decent meal.

This is not limited to being poor and not having enough food as working parents may not have enough time to prepare breakfast for their children in the morning.

Many parents have to leave for work early in the morning or have to rush to get their children ready for school.

This does not leave much time for them to prepare breakfast, let alone for the child to eat it.

Mother Kay Tan who has four children, said getting all of them up and ready on time is a real challenge.

“Not every parent is adept in the kitchen so I’m thankful that the government is providing breakfast for those in primary schools, ” she said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin is cautious about the implementation of the initiative.

Although he said it is “good”, he wants to know whether pupils will be able to make it on time to actually eat the food.

On instilling discipline through communal eating with the teachers and washing their own utensils, he said this should be learnt at home.

“Teachers just reinforce these qualities, ” he said.

He also foresees problems of food wastage if the child doesn’t want the food or has already eaten at home.

Father of two, George Ling, said the government also needs to look into the possibility for those who want to opt out of having their children eat at school.

“Some may prefer their children to eat at home, ” he added.

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) welcomes the minister’s announcement.

Its secretary-general Harry Tan called it a “unifying hope” to treat Malaysians equally, especially students.

“This is a long overdue step.

“It gives a strong message to pupils that all of us, no matter what our race, religion and social status is, we are all equal.

“All sensitivities, however, must be taken into account when preparing and providing the food, ” he said.

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam commended the ministry, saying a large number of pupils go to school with an empty stomach.

“They go to school in a hurry by just consuming a drink because their parents are busy or because they have to rush for their school bus; the first meal of the day is vital.

“Back in the day, food was supplied to poor pupils.

“We should congratulate the ministry on their effort but the management of it must be done with the help of Parent-Teacher Associations, ” he said.

Siva Subramaniam said there will also be added value to pupils’ attention during lessons.

“They won’t be thinking about their empty stomach.

“Taking care of our pupils will enhance their day for better education, ” he added.

Although secondary school students are not part of the programme, Siva Subramaniam urged the ministry to look into the possibility of extending the programme to them as well.

“Many secondary school students also go to school without breakfast, ” he pointed out.

Details first, please

School heads remain cautious regarding the implementation of the new programme.

Noridah Abdul Aziz, the headmistress of SK Bandar Tasik Kesuma, Selangor, said she now faces a logistical dilemma.

Her school’s canteen can only accommodate around 300 pupils, which is around 12% of the school’s population of 2,500 pupils.

Although they are divided into two sessions, there are still more pupils than available space in the canteen.

There are three recess times in the school to cater to the huge student population, she added.

She also said that the numbers keep growing and this is not even including their 126 teachers who are required to join the pupils during meal times.

“We are waiting for the ministry to issue formal instructions on how the programme will be implemented, especially for schools with a large student population.

“How will we arrange the pupils to eat breakfast because our space is small?” she questioned.

She said the pupils are not expected to eat in the classrooms.

“This is a good programme and we hope that it can be implemented properly.

“We already practice having the pupils clean up after themselves, ” said Noridah, referring to the ministry’s plans to have the school children clean their utensils.

The pupils have to clean the tables as well, she added.

“This has instilled not only discipline but also civic consciousness in them, ” she said.

SK Pauh Jaya, Penang, headmaster Ramlee Abu Bakar said the collaboration between the Health and Education Ministries is important so that the meals provided meets a child’s nutritional needs.

He added that his school provides packed, nutritious meals to its pupils valued around RM3 every day to those who want it.

Parents pay for these meals directly to the canteen operator monthly, he added.

More than 300 pupils receive these meals daily, he said, adding that the primary school has an enrolment of 1,300 pupils.

He also said the food menu, which includes a drink, is determined after consultation with the Penang state health department and district health office.

Ramlee said the menu rotates among 10 food items which include rice, fruits and vegetables.

As for drinks, he said the school serves fresh fruit juices and that sugary drinks such as cordial syrups are not allowed.

“We have strict control on the food served, ” he pointed out.

This is to ensure that pupils receive adequate nutrition so that they can “function well” throughout the school day.

What’s on the menu

The menu and budget for the PSP for primary school children are still being discussed, said Maszlee.

This is to ensure that pupils will get a nutritious breakfast of the best quality.

“The programme aims to provide nutritious food based on caloric value and balanced nutrition to ensure pupils practise a healthy lifestyle, which will stimulate their growth process.

“The menu will be determined after discussions with the Health Ministry, nutritionists and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, ” he said.

In a posting on Instagram Story on Tuesday, he explained that the plan was to serve the meals for about half an hour.

Meal times will be between 7am and 8.30am for the morning session, and noon and 4pm for the afternoon session, he added.

“A special committee will be formed to discuss in detail the provisions that will be used for the PSP, ” he said.

Maszlee has said the programme is inspired by what Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saw in Japan.

The country’s pupils received nutritional food and learned civic consciousness via the programme there.

Many have joined the effort to improve meals at schools globally, which are generally deemed to be lacking in nutrition.

Among them is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who has been actively trying to change eating habits in schools in Britain since 2005 with his television show Jamie’s School Dinners.

The programme revealed the poor standards of school food in the UK.

The Jamie Oliver Foundation, in its research years later, found that many schools served food high in fat and sugar during break and lunch times despite the campaign.

Some of the food included pizza, doughnuts, muffins and cookies.

It was reported that Oliver admitted his school dinner campaign was not a success as he felt that eating well was still viewed as an “indulgence of the middle classes” in the Britain.

Former US first lady Michelle Obama had pushed for healthier school meals as part of her agenda to tackle obesity. During the Obama administration, the US Congress passed laws requiring school lunches to be more nutritious.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed by the Congress in 2010, required schools to only provide grain products that contained at least 50% whole grains and reduce sodium, full-fat milk and meat from meals.

Snacks with low nutritional value were to be swapped for fruit cups and granola bars.

The United States’ Department of Agriculture also published new regulations to enforce the law.

However, that initiative failed as Donald Trump’s administration reversed those guidelines last year.

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