The health of more than 2 million students could be threatened by poorly managed student lunch programs, a lawmaker claimed yesterday.
"Fifty-four percent of schools do not have any nutritionist in service," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Justin Chou (
"Not only is it against the law, it also puts the health of over 2 million children at risk," he said.
Article 23 of the School Health Act (
"It's astonishing to see that there is only one nutritionist serving the whole of Kaohsiung County," Chou said. "And there is not one in Tainan County."
Ministry of Education statistics showed that, by law, 390 nutritionist should have been in service by the end of last year.
At last count, there were only 117.
Sixteen lunch-related incidents were recorded last year, involving food poisoning, unusual amounts of bacteria in food and foreign objects in lunch boxes, among others.
Nutritionists inspected two student lunch boxes randomly selected from Taipei City schools.
Both samples failed the evaluation due to nutritional imbalance.
Insufficient budget was the main reason for the shortage in nutritionists, Lu Sheng-yuan (
"But starting in September, the ministry will provide funds for local governments to hire nutritionists," he said.
"The vacancies will be filled and within five years we will have met the legal requirements," he said.
By September, all the counties will have at least one nutritionist to serve local schools, Lu said.
The ministry also planned to assign nutritionists to county governments to oversee lunch providers from outside of school, Lu added.
More than 20 percent of all elementary and junior-high schools outsource their lunch programs, affecting 36 percent of students, while the remainder have their own kitchens, the ministry said.