The Ministry of Education is encouraging more elementary and junior-high schools around the country to set up their own kitchens to ensure that student lunches are cooked properly and prepared with safe ingredients, a senior ministry official said yesterday.
The ministry is aiming to get at least 90 percent of all elementary and junior-high schools to establish their own kitchens within the next five years, Department of Physical Education head Wang Chun-chuan (王俊權) said.
“Only by encouraging schools to open up their own kitchens can the ministry effectively oversee the safety of school lunch meals,” Wang said.
At present, about 80 percent of elementary and junior-high schools have their own kitchens or order meals prepared at kitchens in neighboring schools, said Wang, whose department is responsible for the health of students.
However, occasional cases of food poisoning from lunches provided by vendors and recent corruption scandals involving lunch contracts have convinced the ministry that more schools need to take control over food preparation.
Wang said many schools, especially those in metropolitan areas with efficient transportation networks and plenty of external food vendors to choose from, have found it easier to order food from vendors than to manage a kitchen, leading to an array of problems.
It is much harder to monitor the safety of food prepared by outside suppliers than it is to monitor meals made in-house. In addition, transporting the lunches is detrimental to fuel conservation and emission reduction efforts, Wang said.
Aside from encouraging the installation of school kitchens, the ministry will also reinforce inspections of private meal suppliers to check on food safety standards in cooperation with local education and health units, Wang said.