SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, October 31, 2018 — The Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide quality and “eco-friendly school meal” in all elementary, middle and high schools in Seoul regardless of school type including national public, and private ones from 2021.
The key is that all high school students (320 schools in total) can get the benefit of eco-friendly school meal from 2021 through a step-wise implementation. So far, 43 national and private elementary schools and international middle schools were not included in this plan due to budget issues even though they belong to compulsory education system. With a new plan, these schools will be newly added to the program. The Seoul city government is the first in the country that began providing eco-friendly school meal for elementary schools in 2011 by working with Seoul Education Office and autonomous districts. Seoul then expanded this meal program to all elementary and middle school students (under compulsory schooling) in 2014.
After 10 years when Seoul began providing the eco-friendly school meals in 2011, all the students in Seoul now can enjoy the rights to have a “healthy meal every day” as the benefit of universal educational welfare. A total of 930,000 students at 1,302 schools will receive the benefits. It means that first-year students at middle school have “eco-friendly school meal” every day from the very first day at elementary school to the very last day at high school. Currently, eco-friendly meals are provided for all graders in 939 schools including public elementary schools (including approved alternative schools) and national, public and private middle schools. The major policy goal is not only to provide the meals but also to promote the students’ physical and mental maturity by providing various training courses about healthy eating habit, nutrition, eco-friendly agriculture products and table manner.
In particular, Seoul plans to enhance the general quality standard of school meals. So far, high school meals were at a blind spot as they were not included in the eco-friendly program. With the new plan, Seoul will increase the rate of eco-friendly food ingredients used for high school meals to 70% (the same rate for the current eco-friendly school meals) from 30% (the average rate from March to August of 2018). The meal cost (4,699 won on average) will be increased to match the level of middle school meals (5,058 won).
Students in low-income families are reluctant to apply for the school meal program. As such, the number of applicants has been decreased year by year. Seoul explains that the teenagers with sensitivity in their age do not feel comfortable about the selective free meal program as they can feel a sense of being stigmatized. Currently, 15.29% (39,354 students) of all high schoolers in Seoul receive the monthly support for school meal expense under the laws. Seoul also gives the selective support of school meal expense for high school students having unexpected economic difficulties including the students whose household income is below 60% of the median earnings and the students who get the recommendation from their school principals. However, the number of the beneficiaries is going down every year because they have to apply for the program on their own and they don’t feel comfortable about it.
Seoul expects that it will take 700 billion won as the annual budget including labor and management cost once the eco-friendly school meals are applied to 1,302 elementary, middle and high schools (453.3 billion won in 2018). The rate of budget contribution will remain the same with Seoul City for 30%, Seoul Education Office for 50% and autonomous districts for 20%. The program will be expanded by grade considering the financial status of autonomous districts starting from next year.
Mayor Park Won-soon of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Head Cho Hee Yeon of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, and 9 Heads of autonomous district offices announced the “Plan of Full Implementation of Eco-friendly School Meal Program for Schools including High Schools and National and Private Elementary Schools” with above details on 29th (Mon) October.
<Pilot program will start with the 3rd graders of 96 high schools in 9 districts from next year, providing the support amounting to 5,406 won per student.>
For high schools, Seoul will run a pilot program for the 3rd graders (24,000 students) at 96 schools in 9 districts from 2019. These schools include 53 general high schools, 24 vocational high schools, 15 charter high schools and 4 special-purpose high schools. As such, all schools within those districts are eligible for the program regardless of the school type. Those schools account for 30% of the entire high schools in Seoul. The meal cost will be 5,406 won per student next year, which is 15% (707 won) up from the current average cost (4,699 won) for high schools in Seoul. The 21.4 billion won will be dispatched. Each district will pay around 350 million to 700 million won. The 9 districts under the pilot projects include Jung-gu, Seongdong-gu, Dongdaemun-gu, Jungnang-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Dobong-gu, Dongjak-gu, Gwanak-gu, and Gangdong-gu. The program starts with the 3rd graders in order to realize the purpose of the “universal educational welfare” and help many students as possible experience the eco-friendly school meals. The scope of beneficiaries will be expanded by grade (3rd graders in 2019 2nd graders in 2020 1st graders in 2021).
<The program will also include the national and private elementary schools which were on the waiting list when the free school meals began in 2011. Seoul can achieve a complete “eco-friendly school meal plan.”>
For national and private elementary schools and international middle schools, Seoul will apply the program starting with 11,697 students at 21 schools in 11 autonomous districts in 2019, which account for 49% of the total. The total budget amounts to 10.2 billion won. Meal cost per student is fixed to 4,649 won in 2019. The Seoul city government explained its purpose to fully complete the “eco-friendly school meal” plan by expanding the support for all elementary and middle schools which belong to the compulsory education system as Seoul is to implement the program for high schools as well in full swing.