Catering at schools in Kazakhstan: profit vs. quality

Every fifth schoolchild suffers from digestive system diseases like stomach ulcer; every second child suffers from gastritis; the majority lack calcium and folacin (Mingazova, 2011). This is the real picture of strong educational system of Kazakhstan, as the children got bogged down in such troubles because of the poor quality of catering at schools. We talk big about the quality of education at schools, disregarding crucial issues with its integral part – catering, which might be improved taking a leaf out of Italian creative procurement policy book.

Most of the school canteens do not mind children not being overfond of the school cuisine, as they found more cost-effective solution – sideboards selling junk food and sweetmeat. They have longer expiry dates and do not have to be cooked everyday. Blaming innocent but hungry children, the school administration deny the fact that the food is not only unattractive, but also have no health benefits. Sadly, promoting the “lowest price” service as in the UK, the catering procurement in Kazakhstan is elected according to the “best value” system (Morgan & Sonnino, 2006, p.4). Holding the name “sustainable school meal service”, the system urges steady quality progression along with the competitiveness between the catering agencies, which are given plenipotentiary freedom after the allocation (Morgan & Sinnino, 2006, p. 1). Parents’ voice is neglected throughout the process, and the school administration is bribed with free meal provision. As a result, parents complain that they do not receive any information about the food their children eat at school and the personnel that provides it. There is also a big concern regarding the medical examination, which also remains unknown, of the catering staff (Mingazova, 2011).

The government of Kazakhstan, since the slight amendments on food procurement policy in 2007 did not bring remarkable reclamations, could take for a model the Italian policy (Mingazova, 2011). The advantage of this policy is that school meal, which is defined as the most important aspect in education, is controlled by various stakeholders: from Ministry of Education to Ministry of Agriculture (Morgan & Sinnino, 2006). The latter promotes the local goods utilization, which adds to the quality but decreases the cost.  Parents take active part in designing the meal plan as well. Therefore, there is a high competitiveness between high-quality, not the cheapest, catering services.

It is highly improbable to involve all local ministries in controlling the school catering. Involving parents into this process would though embroider the quality of meal at schools. Teaching the new generation the traits of appropriate nourishment is mostly possible at schools. Therefore, abandoning the sideboards might also prevent children’s health problems.

References

Mingazova, A. (2006). Osoboe vnimanie shkolnomu pitaniu [Special emphasis on school catering]. Sezon, 2011.

Morgan, K., & Sonnino, R. (2006). Empowering consumers: the creative procurement of school meals in Italy and the UK. International Journal of Consumer Studies. 1-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1470-6431.2006.00552.x

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4 thoughts on “Catering at schools in Kazakhstan: profit vs. quality

  1. Thank you for sharing with your insights about this very important topic. Indeed, whilst loudly speaking about less important things such as rankings, competition, tests, and homeworks, we tend to forget mentioning about the most important element – child’s health. Very often we hear from news that children got poisoned at one school, children got sick in another etc. Usually school administrators take a reactive position and start blaming catering services, local education authorities, and supply companies. However, only when the schools administrators will proactively emphasize the importance of students’ health and their well-being, then many of the cases will not occur in our schools.

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    1. Thank you Ainur! I am glad that you found this topic important. Unfortunately nowadays the school is perceived merely as an educational hub. However, schools should be the safest places for children to learn and become useful individuals of the country. Therefore the catering system should be controlled directly by the school administrators and parents. Otherwise the food will remain being wasted.

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  2. Thank you for taking concern about the topic. This is another important portion of matter in educational environment in the country…
    My attitude about the case of catering in schools is also negative. Any person’s well-being highly depends on regular and healthy nutrition. Even your daily menu can either be useful or harmful for your teeth, depending on whether you eat dairy product or not.

    However, for several years schools in some cities in Kazakhstan have been catering children (only elementary students, grade 1-4) with one-time free meal, which had not existed before. While schools in Astana provide with free meal, schools in Semey don’t, where we see disbalance of catering in the country. Definitely, I dare not tell about its quality, however, it seems to be a positive initiative anyway.

    Hope that we will have a high quality catering in future…

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    1. Thank you Dinara. The main concern abut the catering at schools I tried to indicate, is that whenever something is provided for free, we stop thinking about the quality. However, the case of Italy challenges the quality of free catering service. They would rather pay for better quality, than later pay for recovering or spend funds for vitamins and medicine. Therefore, the quality of catering at schools is really high, as parents are strongly encouraged to participate in this process. This means that high quality of catering service is achievable, if parents will be allowed to take active part in this process.

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