Joy Pamnani, 20, University of Hong Kong
I’m currently on exchange in Italy, Europe’s vegetarian haven. It’s been a few days since I arrived, and I’m already starting to miss my dim sum, cheung fan, and Vita lemon tea. But if there’s one thing I don’t miss, it’s my high school lunch – steamed vegetables and white rice for six straight years. It didn’t taste great, but it was definitely a healthy option.
Recently, there’s been a debate over whether the government should give more financial support to schools that offer healthier meals.
In fact, most Hong Kong schools already provide their students with healthy food. The Education Bureau is doing an excellent job of making sure that schools choose their caterers carefully while creating a transparent environment to receive feedback on the meals. In addition, the bureau’s website offers guidance to schools and caterers about portion sizes and the nutrients students need.
Also, schools offering healthier meals don’t need financial support because healthy food is cheaper. As a vegetarian, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and it’s budget-friendly!
Most caterers generally charge the same price for vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals; it’s the students who decide what they should buy. Government subsidies would not make them their change their minds. For example, nobody can stop them going to McDonald’s at lunch time.
It’s high time the government spent more money educating students about the long-term effects of an unhealthy diet, and how they can strike a balance between consuming nutrient-rich meals and spending wisely.
Charlotte Fong, 16, International Christian School
In a society where young people practically live off junk food, the government should definitely support such a move. It would help improve students’ health and lower obesity rates among them.
It is a no-brainer that nutritious food improves a person’s physical and mental well-being. Young people who are going through puberty need a balanced diet. They should eat food that gives them the energy and nutrients they need, allowing their bodies to grow and develop properly.
According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Paed iatrics, American schools that follow the healthy eating guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture reported lower obesity rates. Students who have fruit, vegetables and low-fat milk during meals are far less likely to be overweight.
Young people in Hong Kong already struggle to get enough exercise, so it is important that they have a protein- and vitamin-rich lunch.
As much as schools want to provide nutritious food for their students, it is often costly and difficult to get. So this is where a government subsidy would come in handy. What’s more, the government reports a huge surplus every year, and helping students to lead a healthy lifestyle would be one way of putting that money into good use.
Since the government has a responsibility to ensure a young person’s well-being, it should support schools which provide their students with healthier meals.