Free school meals for the whole school to solve the hunger of poor children?
In some parts of the UK, breakfast and lunch will be provided free of charge to all students in order to cope with the hunger problem of school children. About 20% of the children in Hong Kong are hungry due to poor family conditions. The Government needs to review the existing measures and provide systemic food assistance.
The Fulham and Hammersmith District Council in London launched a new program on Wednesday (5th) to enjoy free school breakfast and lunch regardless of the student’s family income. The plan is funded by local developers as a condition for the development of real estate projects. The council said that although the UK had provided free school breakfast or lunch for poor children, many people in need did not benefit from various reasons.
According to the latest data from the local government this year, about one-fifth of the children in the country live in food insecure families. According to the charity Child Poverty Action Group, hunger causes children to lose learning and social opportunities, and teachers say that students need to have enough nutrients to support their studies and participate in extracurricular activities.
Why not just send food to children in need, but to all children? There is a precedent in the move in the UK. Many of the poor children in the town of Blackpool who are really in need are not willing to receive free breakfast because they are worried about being negatively labelled. They are provided to all primary school students in 2012 to protect their self-esteem.
In Hong Kong, children from low-income families have received government-funded free lunch at school since the 2014/15 school year. Primary 1 to P6 students are only allowed to receive a “full subsidy" under the Student Financial Assistance Scheme and a full-time government, subsidised or direct-funded primary school to receive lunch at the school they attend.
Nearly 20% of the grassroots children in Hong Kong have been hungry
However, although there is a saying in Hong Kong that “Hong Kong is hungry," the results of the survey released by the Civil Service Centre last year showed that as many as 87% and 82.3% of the grassroots children in the local area ate less meat and dairy food, and more Nearly 20% (17.6%) have been hungry or have not eaten all day.
Project Director Li Miaoling said yesterday that although the Hong Kong Government provides free lunch at school, many people in need, including those receiving half-subsidy or in-service family allowance, have not benefited from the inconsistency. Many of these families live in mortuaries. They are forced to work long hours due to housing pressure. They are incapable and have no suitable diet for their children.
Locally, for practical reasons, it is not possible to send free brunch to all students in London. In contrast, the US systemic approach is more worth considering. Mississippi’s free and funded campus lunch program once only benefited 7 to 80% of students in need, below the 95% required by the federal government. The local education department set up an inter-departmental database in 2017 to work with other government departments and the US Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to accurately identify the students in need and to reduce the process of filling out and processing the relevant documents. The rate is over 95%.