[EDITORIALS]Children need quality lunches

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[EDITORIALS]Children need quality lunches

The poor quality of free lunches provided to needy children in Seogwipo in Jeju and Gunsan in North Jeolla are stirring public furor. The lunch included one piece of bread, two to three pickled radishes, four pieces of processed crabmeat, five boiled quail eggs and two pieces of fried food.
Officials say the lunches cost 2,500 won ($2.4) but the quality and quantity tells a different tale. The menu does not take into account the nutritional requirements of growing children.
Internet users have posted messages such as “Is this a North Korean lunch?” and “Have you asked your children whether they can eat the lunch?”
Experts say that the food in the poor lunches would cost less than 1,000 won. It goes against human conscience to gain profits from lunches given to needy children who barely eat one or two meals per day.
The shamelessness of the lunch providers who gain money at the expense of hungry children and the indifference of local officials who have been negligent in controlling the quality of lunches are no different from criminal acts.
Currently, about 305,000 elementary, middle and high school students are considered “needy children.” Among them, 250,000 are given free lunches by local governments while the rest of the children have to feed themselves.
But according to one civic group, the number of “needy children” could be as many as 1.14 million, including those from basic welfare families, low income and parentless families. We must look at whether these children are taken care of by the government as well.
If there are needy children who are not taken care of, then it is the responsibility of us all. Not taking care of hungry children is a crime.
If they cannot grow up to be sound adults because they grow up hungry in their youth, then this would lead to a national loss. There are limitations to providing good lunches with the current funding.
The government must allot more money to providing adequate lunches to needy children and also to accurately identifying the number of such children.
The free lunches should not be provided by profit companies but by social volunteer groups that operate food banks. We should also consider providing coupons for free lunches at restaurants and eateries.
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