Improper Nutrition in School Cafeteria Food in Korea
Well, being an international student in such a new country with different cultures must be very difficult. We don’t speaking the same language and we don’t have same manners and etiquette. Our taste buds aren’t that same too. During my stay in Korea, I had a lot of problems regarding what food is acceptable for my daily consumption. Since I am a Muslim, I am not allowed to touch some kinds of food, such as pork. So that’s why I stocked some food supplies for myself instead of dining in the school cafeteria. My food supplies weren’t that healthy since I couldn’t cook the fresh ones at the school dorm ( my school dorm doesn’t provide a kitchen, only microwave is available. ). I had can tuna, chicken spam, instant noodles, or 3-minute-cook instant food. But actually the food in the school cafeteria wasn’t that much better than my own supplies. Since pork is cheaper than other dairy products in Korea the school cafeteria mostly cooked food from pork. Is that real pork ? of course not. Sometimes they cooked instant pork meatballs or instant food from pork. It means that it is not 100% pork. Also they love to serve fried food, such as mini mandu (dumpling), kim mari ( glass noodles covered with seaweed layer ), and instant shrimp or chicken katsu.
The cafeteria also served western food, such as hamburger with instant pork patties and bolognaise spaghetti without meat. But despite all of those foods, they also served salad, kimchi, and soup. We had to purchase the food coupon for 2.500 won per meal. But for Korean students, they had to pay the food fee per semester which I think it’s still not cheap with the quality of the food they got. For exchange students from China or Taiwan, they got free food as an MoU with their universities.
In my opinion, the price of the meal is actually not affordable for such dishes we had. From the nutrition side, let’s say we consume rice, instant fried food ( which is mostly made only by flour and small amount of chopped vegetables ), salad / kimchi, and soup. We have mostly carbohydrates from this food tray. Even though there is salad or kimchi as the vitamin, but we don’t get the protein supply. The soup was only small amount of chopped cabbage with several pieces of small-diced-cut tofu. Or when we had spaghetti, they served the spaghetti with the cut baked baguette bread. The sauce was only made with tomato sauce, oregano, and chopped tomato. No protein, only carbohydrates served.
Of course there were times when the cafeteria served such healthier food, like (real) fish cooked in a hot sauce, deep fried fish with tartar sauce, or bulgogi with real pork or tuna bibimbab ( mixed rice with vegetables and tuna ). It was served once or twice a month. So I prefer to eat in the cafeteria if they served these kinds of food, except the pork bulgogi one :)
Students really need a big amount of nutrition since they study very hard and they need nutrition supply to help their brain working better when they need to concentrate on studying. If the school cafeteria only provides better food with sufficient nutrition supply and various kinds of food choice, students can fulfill their nutrition needs to do their activities well everyday. A lack of nutrition can make students lazier or easy to doze off at critical points during the semster, and have no energy to do fufill their packed schedules. But also consuming carbohydrates only with small portion of protein and vegetables will cause obesity since carbohydrates are more difficult to be processed inside of our body. The usage of instant food is also dangerous. The more often we consume instant food, the more dangerous it will be. Instant food contains big amount of sodium, MSG ( mono sodium glutamat ), and fat. The high intake of sodium and MSG will cause hypertension and affect the brain therefore making it work slower.
Not all of the school cafeterias in Korea are like this. But it’s an example of what the school management saving costs. It’s area that can be looked upon as for needing improvement. By feeding the students with proper nutrition, it will help the new generations to grow well and give their best in everything they do. How about your school cafeteria? Do you think they can be doing more to keep student healthy?