Malaysia govt starts free meal programme for poor with 4,000 students

Pupils of Salak South Chinese primary school, in Selangor, enjoying a meal as part of the food supplementary programme launched on Jan 20 by the Malaysian government.
Pupils of Salak South Chinese primary school, in Selangor, enjoying a meal as part of the food supplementary programme launched on Jan 20 by the Malaysian government.PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - About 4,000 students from 100 schools across Malaysia on Monday (Jan 20) were given free meals before the beginning of classes, part of a government programme to help poor students who could not afford a proper meal at home.

Under the food supplementary programme launched by the Education Ministry on Monday, students in the morning session will get free breakfast between 7 and 7.30am, while those in the afternoon session will get lunch between 12.30pm and 2pm, The Sun newspaper reported on its website.

The move is an expansion of an existing free food programme for very poor students that was first implemented in 1979.

Under the new programme, apart from very poor students, children with disabilities, those in the indigenous Orang Asli community as well as underprivileged students from elementary schools will also benefit.

"We want to focus on the very poor children, to ensure that they are not hungry when they start classes for the day," Education director-general Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim was quoted by The Sun as saying.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is also Acting Education Minister, said last week that the free breakfast plan for students will be targeted at the poor, tweaking a plan by the previous education minister to feed all pupils regardless of their socio-economic background.

The first phase of the programme is set to cost RM22 million (S$7.3 million), involving children from the so-called B40 or Bottom 40 group, whose median monthly household income is lower than RM3,000.

The government is also expanding a food bank and meals programme for poor undergraduates to 123 universities and colleges from 21 now.