Healthier food offered at all mainstream schools

Bedok Green Primary 1 pupil Ziekriy Hannan Khairul Amin eating a bowl of noodles with beansprouts. Under the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme, the school makes sure that vendors serve healthy dishes and limits the sale of snacks.
Bedok Green Primary 1 pupil Ziekriy Hannan Khairul Amin eating a bowl of noodles with beansprouts. Under the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme, the school makes sure that vendors serve healthy dishes and limits the sale of snacks.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Canteen vendors serving healthy options under programme started in 2011

All mainstream schools now offer healthier food, as part of a broader initiative to help young people adopt better habits.

This was announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Health in a press statement yesterday.

Under the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme, canteen stall operators must serve healthier food, such as white rice mixed with brown rice and wholemeal bread sandwiches. It was started in 2011 and introduced in more schools over the past few years.

Under the scheme, cooks and canteen vendors were trained by nutritionists and chefs on healthy cooking methods, such as baking and grilling. At some schools, pupils pay between 10 and 30 cents more for the cost of healthier ingredients and extra servings of fruit that come with their meals.

A series of programmes aimed at fostering healthy behaviour among the young has been rolled out in various institutions here and progress was made on several fronts, said the two ministries.

Between January and April this year, over 2,200 parents and children took part in the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) pilot Active and Healthy Weekends programme, with fitness and family-friendly activities at community sites.

Some schools, such as Fernvale Primary School and Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Primary), have provided pupils with better access to sports equipment and facilities, so they can play sports during recess time.

The MOE has also started training school staff on how to look out for signs of mental stress in students and provide support to those who need help. These courses will be conducted in phases over the next two years. Students will also be trained to look out for the mental well-being of their peers.

The HPB will also start training pre-school educators to help prepare children for the transition to primary school. It has set up a microsite (www.goodsleep.sg) to educate parents on the importance of quality sleep in children.

Messages on good sleeping practices will be incorporated into physical education by the MOE. A mini-booklet gives parents information on how to improve the health of their children. It is available on www.moh.gov.sg/nurtureSG

Freelance writer Wong Sher Maine, a mother of three, welcomed the move to introduce healthier food options in schools. She said parents also have to play a part in teaching their children the importance of healthy eating.

At her Primary 5 daughter's school in the east, for example, many children still discard fruit given to them with their meals.

"My daughter says she sees a lot of uneaten fruit in the bin. In terms of implementation, there's still quite a lot to overcome," said the 42-year-old.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'Healthier food offered at all mainstream schools'. Print Edition | Subscribe