A photo which is believed to have been taken of a meal at Yen Nghia Middle School in Ha Dong District, Hanoi stirred up a storm on the Internet as its lunch portion appears modest against the price of VND32,000 (US$1.31), causing the authorities to investigate the school’s kitchen for verification.
The serving consists of “a few stalks of bean sprouts, a humble piece of Vietnamese pork bologna, some slices of potatoes, and some morsels of fried fish," which can barely fill the stomachs of young students who are growing.
A parent roughly calculated the cost of a student’s meal, saying, “It only costs about VND5,000-6,000 [$0.2-0.24] per meal when buying food ingredients at wholesale prices. Even if the price includes value-added tax, costs for labor, gas, electricity, salt, equipment depreciation, business profits, and more, it cannot surge up to VND32,000.”
Vietnam’s GDP per capita for 2022 was around $4,164.
Surprise food inspection
With regard to the incident, Ha Dong District’s bureau of education and training in coordination with the medical station of Yen Nghia Ward made a surprise visit to the aforementioned middle school to check the information on October 12, said the head of the bureau told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The result showed that the meal reported earlier belonged to the school’s menu during the week from October 9 to 12.
Accordingly, Yen Nghia Middle School recorded this feedback and made adjustments.
The day-boarding school then provided food traceability records and ensured that it had followed food safety and hygiene regulations by implementing three-step food checks (inspection before, during, and after processing food) as well as food sample storage.
Yen Nghia Middle School has also coordinated with parents to inspect and monitor ingredient reception every day since then.
'It is the staff who distributed servings to blame'
After the controversy over the paltry servings broke out on the Internet, the school and parent representatives organized a meeting with Hoa Sua Catering Processing Company, the food supplier that provides lunch for the school's students.
The supplier then admitted its fault, explaining that the servings were divided disproportionately due to its inadequate personnel having to distribute 500 hot lunch portions within 30 minutes.
Yen Nghia Middle School previously signed a contract with the company to provide about 500 meals per day for semi-boarding students, with each priced at VND32,000, including the value-added tax of eight percent alongside other costs of labor, fuel, food processing, and depreciation of facilities.
The daily menu is said to be publicly selected and approved by parents and Yen Nghia Middle School.
The food supplier acknowledged its shortcomings and made an amendment by adding employees to supervise the kitchen.
The school management board also recognized their mistake of not arranging staff to supervise the kitchen.
They kept collaborating with the board of parents to learn from the experience and pledge to strictly monitor lunch portions to avoid backsliding, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the bureau of education and training in Ha Dong in coordination with the authorities continues to inspect other day-boarding schools across the district.