Inspect school canteens but do not forget about those who profit from them

Inspect school canteens but do not forget about those who profit from them

The National Education Ministry (MEB) shared an announcement titled “Tight control in school canteens” on its website on Sept. 16, 2017.

The purpose of the announcement was to inform of the close monitoring of school canteens as of Sept. 18, 2017, when the new school year started.

Such a precaution along with a public mandate signed by National Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz were hope-inspiring developments, following food poisoning incidents in 2017 in some military barracks and dormitories.

However, in a news report in daily Birgün on March 28, Mustafa Mert Bildircin reported that the relevant “public mandate” had become ineffective six months later.

Following increasing complaints, the National Education Ministry Committee of Inspection Department has reportedly conducted an analysis and sent letters to the provincial directorates for national education saying “An inspection needs to be undertaken in all public and private school canteens.” 

They probably thought the renewal of the notice every six months would achieve results, but I do not know what has changed…

What do these kids eat?

Since we have still been unable to tackle the problem of the lack of inspections on school buses, is there currently enough room to start a new discussion on: “What do you sell these kids, what are they eating in the canteens?”

You may have seen the school canteen inspection form. It is a long list of inspections.

This form lets you evaluate many issues, from food safety to personnel hygiene as either “suitable” or “unsuitable.” It also defines the perfect canteen “in normal conditions and an ideal laboratory environment.”

It is like a guidebook that describes how to disinfect a toaster and which foods should be kept in which conditions.

But, as I have said, it speaks of “normal conditions and an ideal laboratory environment,” and of course, a majority of canteens in real life do not even come by these standards.

One in every five people are obese

The latest research shows one in every five people in Turkey are obese. Obesity has shown a fast increase.

To be honest, statements “during important days and weeks,” an inspection mechanism that looks right on paper but does not actually work and public mandates are not serious obstacles to obesity.

Generations continue to have poor nutrition while growing up…

It is obvious which products’ sales are unwanted in school canteens, but “those products” are cheap and bring profit to the administration.

I do not know whether operating a school canteen is profitable or not, but since armed attacks have occurred even during their tenders , they must have become a source of profit for some.

Before writing this article, I looked at the National Education Ministry’s announcements for tenders to obtain an operating license for some school canteens in Istanbul.

A tender for a school in the Kartal district said the estimated rent per month is 10,000 Turkish Liras ($2,500). There is also the inventory value of the stock, which is around 90,000 liras ($22,400). With 90,000 liras, a restaurant with a good kitchen could probably be opened.

It is very important for unhealthy foods to be removed from the canteens, for tight inspections to occur and for families and children to become more aware. But there is also a “profit” side to the issue.

There are those who cause trouble during the tenders, who favor certain people over others, who use bribery and so forth…

And unavoidably, there are also tensions and spirals of violence created by that profit…

Please remember that only last year, the nephew of a canteen operator in Adana, who was working for him, had stabbed four students for “ordering wraps while the canteen was right there.”

With the way we are talking about what children eat in schools, I hope our future will be bright.

Kanat Atkaya, hdn, Opinion