Feeding children kills cafe workers – Global issues

Soo Hyoun Lim’s classmate is doing a campaign inside the Yongsan International School cafeteria with a poster.
  • Idea by Soo Hyoun Lim – Hyeonuk Hwang (seoul)
  • Associated Press Service

Do you know that a cafeteria worker must provide 150 student meals in a substandard kitchen with poor ventilation? That’s why they get lung cancer. While cooking, they breathe in a gas, known as cooking smoke or cooking smoke. This substance contains “Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and some toxic volatile hydrocarbons,” caused 3.8 million premature deaths from this “indoor air pollution.”. Therefore, it is important to install a proper ventilation system in the school cafeteria to protect kitchen staff.

But why not have a proper ventilation system in the first place? Initially, Korea did not have a school cafeteria. All school children bring lunch boxes from home until 2011. Those who cannot afford lunch boxes will receive free lunches from the school. But imagine it: Johnny is picking up the deluxe lunch box next to Jane, who’s having a free lunch at school. How would Jane feel about this? Well, Korean politicians think that no children should be left behind for school lunches. So, for the sake of equality, the Korean government launched a program “Free School Lunch Program for All” in 2011. The real problem is that they launched this free lunch program without installing proper kitchen ventilation to save money. Essentially, for the sake of political populism, they overlooked the serious problems that a substandard kitchen environment would bring to the health of school cafeteria staff.

What about other countries that offer free school lunches? In Japan, for example, schools were built with a free school lunch program from the start. Therefore, proper ventilation is built. And they are constantly renovating the school’s kitchen for the health benefit of both the cafeteria staff and the students, which is in stark contrast to the schools in Korea.

What can I do as a student?

I really believe spreading the news about the devastation of school cafeteria girls using social media is a good place to start. So I made a poster and posted it on my Instagram. The results are extraordinary. We have received so many ‘Likes’ and comments from everyone, thank you for raising awareness of this dire situation in school cafeterias in Korea. And we will continue to design new posters and post them on social media. People may wonder what difference a small media post can make. Confucius said, “The person who moves mountains begins with the removal of small stones.” Our post can be a small stone. But wait until we have a huge collection of posts on the matter. We can move a mountain. You never know.

What else can we do as students? We write this opinion editorial to suggest innovative solutions that can reach policymakers in Korea. That’s something! For the answer, we thought of using clean and renewable energy: cooking with the sun! Have you ever used a solar oven? Basically, a solar cooker consists of a reflector system and a cooking pot. Set the conversion of light to heat for baking, boiling or steaming food. In a solar oven, you can cook anything you can cook in an oven or a regular electric or gas stove without creating harmful cooking fumes. Well, it’s hard to brown in a solar oven due to the lower temperature. On the bright side, this means we don’t need to worry about our food drying out or burning.

Most importantly, no deadly cooking fumes! We may not be getting crisps or caramelized steaks, but there are plenty of recipes specifically designed for solar ovens. If we can get rid of the cooking fumes that are harmful to the health of the women in our cafe, we will be very satisfied with the food from the solar cooker.

But does it work for a large number of people? According to Mason Terry, Director of the Oregon Renewable Energy Center, many solar furnaces worked wonderfully many years ago in a refugee camp in Nepal. You may not know this, but Nepal is home to more than 40,000 refugees. If it works for such a large number of hungry people in Nepal, I’m sure Korea can find a way to use this earth-friendly oven for their students at school. Since budget is an issue to install proper ventilation in Korean schools, they can save a lot of gas and electricity bills by using solar ovens. And with the money they save, they can install proper ventilation! Once again, we very much hope that this sustainable solution will reach Korean policymakers.

Posters on social media and talking about solar ovens. We know. They are small steps. Probably too small to change current Korean cafeterias. Probably too weak to save the lives of the women in our cafe. But how small and weak these steps may be, the important thing is that we are leaving our mark on the matter. Wayne Gerad Trotman once said, “We are not helpless. We can all make this world a better place. We can start with small steps, one day at a time.” So take a small step with us today. Tomorrow, we will be one step closer to bringing changes to Korean school cafeterias.

Note: Soo Hyoun Lim is the team leader of this project. Edited by Dr. Hanna Yoon

Report of the United Nations Office IPS

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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