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Seoul to raise extra budget for free meal program

July 13, 2022 - 14:48 By Im Eun-byel
Meal plate on display at an exhibition held at COEX, southern Seoul on July 7 (Yonhap)

With Korea’s consumer prices jumping at an unprecedented rate, the Seoul Education Office is planning to raise an extra budget for school meals.

All kindergarteners and elementary, middle and high school students are subject to free school lunch in the city of Seoul. The city launched its free lunch program for students in 2011 and has since expanded it.

However, with hiking consumer prices, the Seoul Education Office is planning to raise an extra budget to continue its support for free school lunches. It plans to raise its budget for school lunches for the second semester by 4.6 percent, or 9.8 billion won ($7.5 million). It is discussing the budget raise with autonomous districts.

For the free school lunches, the education office covers 50 percent of the cost while the Seoul Metropolitan Government covers 30 percent and each autonomous district pays for the remaining 20 percent.

Though the unit price per student differs for schools depending on the number of students and classes, the Seoul education office said, each meal per student costs between 3,912 won and 6,791 won.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union issued a statement Tuesday calling for the Education Ministry to take part in ensuring free school meals for students.

“The Ministry of Education should step forward to come up with specific measures to ensure the quality of free school lunch,” the statement read. “If not possible, it should come up with a guideline so that education offices can persuade local governments to expand the support for school lunches.”

According to Statistics Korea, consumer prices have been rising steeply recently, soaring 6 percent last month from a year earlier, following a 5.4 percent on-year spike in May.