Rancangan Makanan Tambahan (RMT) is a programme of food supplement aid to students from rural areas and families within the RM800 per capita group. Its implementations aims to help improve the nutritional status of students involved so that they could concentrate on the learning and comprehension at school. The program is expected to ensure the physical growth, mental health and general health improved school students in addition to helping students get a balanced diet during school session of 190 days per school year.
The Ministry of Education Malaysia has set the rate of RM1.80 per day for students in the Peninsula Malaysia and RM2.05 a day for Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory from March 1, 2007. This rate is based on the cost of raw materials in the market and does not account the needs of the services, fuel and drinks.
The caterer appointed by each school is responsible for managing the supply of materials, preparing and serving food, cleaning equipment and the serving area under the guidance of the RMT Committee. The choice of menu provided by the Ministry of Education, repeated every week or two weeks depending on the local food supply capabilities and in compliance with the financial provisions.
There however lies some concerns on the subject of the food programme. Though the intentions are pure, in these age of time the rate of RM1.80 or RM2.05 in the Peninsula or Sabah and Sarawak respectively is stretched thin to provide a nutritious meal. What is a nutritious meal? It also means a balance of food group per serving. Would at the end of each schooling week, a complete food group is served, of the financial provision per qualified student? Most certainly with the budget stringed provision, a complete nutrition, a wishful thinking.
Food safety is predominant in ensuring food stored safely from microbiological hazards, contaminants or genetically modified foods. Numerous cases of food poisoning precarious in school canteens as observed in 2011, where 220 cases of food poisoning involving 9,010 students throughout Malaysia. http://www.worldresearchlibrary.org/up_proc/pdf/37-143479383817-20.pdf
Monitoring and controls of the food programme, though managed by the RMT Committee does not stop NOR guarantee the food being enjoyed by the qualified student but in remote situation, teachers too getting a free meal.
The canteen operators (may), more often than not, resolve to selling processed foods (cheaper costs means larger profit margins) and charging other students a bundle, to balance their income. A student regardless of school levels are given an allowance by their parents/care giver an average of RM5.00 per day for meals at school canteens. At the end of a school day; Nuggets, deep fried chicken, beef patties or shoe string potato becomes a daily menu. What happened to the greens (vegetables)?
One can’t blame the canteen operators entirely as it involves the schooling community (the teachers, parents, student, administrative). Address the issue holistically not by turning a deaf ear or an eye, but huffing their nostrils when caught in the act. The assistance by the Government through the Ministry of Education is welcomed and thankful over the years and continued of similar programme. Room of improvements is still wide and large for further enhancement through the understanding and thorough involvement/coordination by party/parties responsible.
Excellence is nurtured. It is the result of concerted efforts.