The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday flip-flopped on milk subsidies for economically disadvantaged elementary-school students after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lashed out at the plan, which would have affected 42,600 school children.
“Delivery of free milk for elementary-school students from low-income families was resumed yesterday,” Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Hu Hsing-hua (胡興華) said.
Over the past six years, the council has provided kindergarten and elementary-school children from low-income families with free milk in fall and winter semesters. The practice, which costs approximately NT$10 million (US$331,000) per year, allows the children to get three bottles of milk for free per week.
However, the council decided to suspend the service for schoolchildren this year because of a hike in the price of milk.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) on Wednesday attacked the council for its plan to scale down the subsidy so that it would cover just 3,800 kindergarten children.
Tsai said the NT$215 million spent on a rock musical staged last month to celebrate the Republic of China centennial would be enough to cover the service for 21 years.
The council first defended its plan, with Chen Chung-hsing (陳中興), chief of the council’s Department of Animal Industry, saying that the council had allocated NT$6.4 million under the free-milk program for dairy farmers, which was expected to affect 38,000 children from low-income families and leave only 3,800 children in care homes in need of free milk.
However, the council reversed the policy yesterday.
Hu said the council would administer a fund to continue providing free milk to disadvantaged children, and would expand the service for kindergarten kids by extending the delivery from seven weeks to 14 weeks and from three bottles to six bottles a week.