Malaysia will be providing free breakfast to all primary school children with the start of the new school year in January 2020.
According to MOE numbers, there were about 2.69 million students enrolled in government-run primary schools in 2018 according to January 2018 enrolment data.
The Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik said in a statement on Facebook that the Ministry of Education (MOE) cares deeply about the diet of students and is constantly launching initiatives to ensure that children are fed with nutritious food.
“Our children need a precise dietary schedule and balanced eating habits to ensure they stay fit and healthy, while it helps keep them focused on their studies each day,” he wrote in Malay.
As such, he announced that “MOE will launch a free breakfast program especially for primary school students across the nation”. Through the program, Dr Maszlee says children will be provided with delicious and healthy breakfasts that are also free.
“MOE will continue to explore any options to ensure that children can attend school happily,” added the minister.
In March, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the new Sugar Tax will pay for this breakfast program. The tax came into effect on 1 July 2019, where a tax of 40 sen per litre (~S$0.17/litre) is imposed on sweetened beverages.
“Beginning next year, the government will use the revenue collected from this tax to provide free and healthy breakfast programme for all primary school children. We want our kids to be strong and healthy to perform in school,” he announced during his keynote address at the 15th edition of Invest Malaysia (IMKL2019).
On a different note, Dr Maszlee did not indicate if this new program will affect or replace the Rancangan Makanan Tambahan or RMT (Supplementary Food Program) that is currently in effect which provides food for children from extremely poor families.
The RMT programme was introduced in 1979 under the former Barisan Nasional administration where students in Peninsular Malaysia are provided food worth RM2.50 (S$0.83) a day for 190 days per year. Students in Sabah and Sarawak are provided food worth RM3 (S$0.99) a day for 190 days of the school year.
In December 2018, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching announced that the MOE has allocated RM289 million (S$95.44 million) for the RMT program in 2019, where RM250 million (S$82.56 million) will be used to supply food while another RM39 million (S$12.88 million) will be used for milk and other food. In 2018, approximately 489,117 students in 7,316 schools benefitted from the RMT program.