By Abigail Ang (18S06B)
You may have heard the rumours, or overheard the vendors talking about it in the canteen. The announcement on Stamford last Friday served as the final proof: the Healthy Meals in Schools Programme (HMSP) will be rolled out once Term 3 reopens, marking the end of fried food, potato chips and high-in-sugar drinks in RI.
The HMSP, which aims to encourage healthier food and beverage choices in schools, will bring about four major changes to the food sold at the Chills and canteens, at both Year 5–6 and 1–4 sides.
The main change to food sold in the canteen is that it will now come in set meals, with a minimum portion of fruits and vegetables. The additional cost of this, as well as the use of healthier ingredients, means an increase in food prices; the school has stated that one set meal will cost $2.30 to $3.50.
It is unclear if students will be able to purchase food outside of the set meals, if they only want a snack, for example. One could, of course, head to Chill@RI for one of those. However, you are unlikely to find your favourite chips brand still on the shelves.
According to Joanne, owner of both Chills in RI, the majority of potato chips on the market do not have the Healthier Choice symbol, such that she may remove some shelves in Chill due to the lack of approved brands to fill them.
To our relief, Joanne assured us that the waffles at Chill@Y1–4 will continue to be sold, since less sugar is already used in the batter. The sale of biscuits, sweets and cereal bars at Chill will also be unaffected.
The fate of many beverages is less certain, though. As the sugar content of homemade drinks cannot exceed 6g per 100ml, drinks such as the ice lemon tea at the Year 5–6 canteen will either have to be eliminated or watered down. Similarly, the sugar content of commercially prepared drinks must not exceed 7%. This may worry some consumers of energy drinks, which are usually high in sugar. For example, Red Bull contains 10g of sugar per 100ml.
Angus Yip (18A01A) stated that “While I can see the school’s rationale in banning such drinks, it’s still disappointing since some people really rely on them to get through the school day.”
Students may be relieved to hear, however, that not all of their ‘guilty pleasures’ will be eliminated. According to a list of approved beverages compiled by the Health Promotion Board, Pokka Ice Lemon tea and flavoured milks (such as chocolate milk) will remain up for sale, though students will have to settle for low-fat or skim milk.
Another concern is the possible loss of revenue for canteen vendors. When asked about this, one of the ladies at the drinks stall remarked in Mandarin, “There is no other way, we will just have to make less.”
However, we should also not be too dismissive of the programme, as one of the aunties reminded this writer:
“The government is good to you, the programme is for your health.”
In any case, this writer hopes that when it is time for students to swap their chips for fruit or a bag of nuts, they will look out for each other and continue to support the friendly vendors in the canteen and Chill, who have always served us with kindness.
(Cover image source: https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1114/healthy-eating-in-school-and-at-home)