KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik has urged the government to extend the free school breakfast programme to all primary school students beyond the hardcore poor.
The former education minister said a “non-discriminatory” free breakfast programme in public primary schools can have a positive spillover effect as many Malaysians, irrespective of their socio-economic status, continue to struggle with the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences.
“My hope is for the government to run a free breakfast programme for all students without any discrimination,” Maszlee said in Parliament yesterday, alluding to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Mustapa Mohamed’s explanation on the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP).
“I am confident that this programme will be able to benefit many as it covers over 7,772 schools, and 2.7 million students and their families,” Maszlee said.
He argued that the free breakfast programme can also help canteen operators, workers, food suppliers, small-medium enterprises (SMEs), and the country’s agricultural industry.
“For students, this programme can produce a generation that receives adequate nutrition and is trained with discipline, ethics, and a moral lifestyle similar to the practice of schools in Japan,” he said. “Education is everyone’s responsibility.”
Malaysia suffers a triple burden of malnutrition: obesity, anaemia, and stunting.
According to a report by the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia and the Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development in 2019, about 30 per cent of children below five in the poorest households in Malaysia that earn below RM1,000 monthly are stunted.
But stunting prevalence is also high at about 17 per cent in families with a household income of above RM5,000 a month, compared to the 7 per cent rate in other upper middle income countries.