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New menu, video surveillance and parent commission: What you need to know about school meals in Kazakhstan

11 April 2019, 09:51
Photo: primeminister.kz

Healthy eating and sports are habits that need to be instilled from school. Today, the organization of high-quality nutrition in schools and kindergartens in Kazakhstan is one of the priority areas that has received close attention from both government agencies and the public. Deputy Director of the capital’s Department of Education Dulat Zhekebayev told about the organization of quality control of school and preschool food in an exclusive interview with PrimeMinister.kz.

— What changes in school and preschool food requirements have been introduced from this year?

— Since 2019, some additions and changes have been made to the regulations. The changes concerned the conduct of competitive procedures. According to the old rules, the competitive procedures of the school were carried out independently, and from the new year they were given the opportunity to conduct them according to the decision of local executive bodies, that is, the akimat determines the single organizer of the competition. For example, in the capital, a single organizer identified the Office of State Assets and Public Procurement.

— At the end of 2018, school canteens needed to review the menu and update the list of prohibited foods. Have this issue been resolved? What products are now officially banned in kindergartens and schools?

— Parents always have the requirements for the menu of students. Therefore, taking into account the views, together with the authorities concerned, many raids to schools to familiarize with the menu were conducted in 2018. Together with the Institute of Nutrition, by 2019 we developed a new menu, which is now working. New competitive procedures were carried out according to this menu. Already in April, with the new quarter, school canteens are working on a new menu. In school canteens and buffets you cannot sell carbonated drinks, fast foods, etc.

— The issue of improving the system of centralized procurement of products for school canteens was also raised last year. What was the final decision?

— The centralized organization of procurement was carried out in our capital namely by the management of state assets and public procurement by the decision of the local executive body. If earlier the schools procured products themselves, now specialists with the necessary expertize conduct procurements. Also this year, the competition commission included NGOs, the parent community, representatives of the Nur Otan party, who from the beginning to the end took part in summarizing the results, that is, the competitions were held as transparently as possible.

— How does your department check the quality of food in school canteens?

— In those rules about which I spoke above, the competence of the school rejection commission is spelled out. This commission is created at school by order of the head of the organization of education. Be sure we are in it as much as possible include the parent community. For example, the commission includes at least 10 parents, a social worker and a health worker from school. They enter the kitchen and check the quality of products, monitor the quality of cooking, weigh and compare, how much it should be according to the menu and how much it actually is. Commission members have the right to require relevant documents for all food products. Each product must have a certificate in order to check the quality and prevent poisoning.

Another body that checks the quality of nutrition in schools is the city's Interdepartmental Expert Group, created by order of the Department of Education, which includes representatives of various departments. These are deputies, non-governmental organizations, parties, the parent community. This group selectively goes to school. The first thing that the Interdepartmental Expert Group at Schools draws attention to is the work of the school refusal commission, record keeping, school meals, provision of ecologically clean drinking water, and compliance with the dietary intake to uniform standards and sanitary requirements. At the same time, we repeatedly say that those who have a sanitary book come into the kitchen.

The third control body is the Department of Public Health. If the first two bodies are endowed with more monitoring functions, then the Department of Public Health is only involved when violations of health regulations are detected. It is the representative of the Department that has the authority to inspect, impose penalties, and bring to administrative responsibility.

— Do parents have the right to attend school canteens? If any violations are detected, where can they go?

— We are trying to ensure that parents take maximum participation in monitoring school meals. The parent has the right to participate in the school rejection commission. It is enough to contact the school management and it will be included in its composition. If violations are detected, the school marriage commission, in particular, and the parent as an individual should contact the Department of Public Health. In addition, since 2019, in order to facilitate this work, we have already installed video surveillance in 30 schools, and by Sep. 1, we plan to install it in all schools in the city. I want to note that the cameras will be installed not only in the canteens, but also in the hot shop, in the kitchen. Some schools use mobile applications where they record and are displayed on the monitor and any parent, bringing a child to school in the morning, has the right to see the process of cooking. If earlier the certification commissions inspected the day the come, now it can access video surveillance.

— Are all schoolchildren of Nur-Sultan provided with hot meals? What is the coverage percentage? Is it planned to increase it?

— In general, in the city of Nur-Sultan, grades 1-4 are fully provided with free hot meals. Also, certain categories of students in grades 5-11 are provided with free hot meals. In addition, all schools are catering at the expense of parents. From September 2019, it is planned to provide free hot meals to children from large families.

— Dulat Shaykenovich, thank you for the information and participation in the interview! See you soon!


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