[EDITORIALS]Lunches’ cost isn’t the problemThe Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Uri Party have come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the poor quality lunches given to needy children during vacation periods. The gist of the plan includes spending 20 billion won ($19.2 million) to raise the unit cost of lunches from 2,500 won to 4,000 won, and increasing the number of lunch management personnel from 3,600 to 12,000.
Was it because they cost 2,500 won that these lunches were so horrible? Increasing the amount of money spent on lunches is the government’s answer, and it was done only after the press made a noise about the lunches’ quality. Under the current system, will raising their prices improve their quality?
Welfare ministry officials will be half in doubt about this plan. The proof of this is another trend that’s been happening around the country, wherein lunch suppliers and restaurants have begun to abandon their contracts with local governments. The suppliers argue that there is no profit in delivering the lunchboxes from morning to night. Also, they cannot bear the social stigma that’s been placed upon lunch suppliers for delivering such low-quality food to the children.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration has said it wants “participatory welfare” policies. It pledged to deliver services to people’s doorsteps. No matter how wonderful a welfare policy is, if the benefits are not delivered to the intended targets, it will eventually fail. Such bureaucratic muddles as planning without taking the actual field situation into account and pointing fingers at budgets, are the core reasons for the lunch crisis.
Excuses are no longer acceptable. We are fed up with rationalizations about the complicated system that links the ministries of welfare and government administration and local governments, or about Korea’s dearth of social workers compared to advanced nations. The bottom line is people, and dedication. In Cheonan, South Chungcheong province, parents and social workers join hands to deliver hot lunches to 50 needy children in their neighborhood. In Gimhae, South Gyeongsang province, the local government contributes 500 won for each lunch. In a polarized, aging society like ours, welfare policies are vital, but ours cannot be trusted because they are entrenched in bureaucracy. We must fix welfare policies that clean up messes belatedly, or are devised without field knowledge.