Saturday, January 15, 2005

School Lunch Scandal

Something has been bothering me of one of the latest
scandals hit Korea. No its has nothing to do with sex, but food. Apparently somebody
complained about the free school lunches given to needy children in Kunsan
The government official in their defense pointed to the fact that they had to
feed all sorts of new children due to the laws. Accordingly the amount per
student they could spend was only 2,500 won per lunch.

In its aftermath new reforms are in place, as well as more
funding for lunches. Story is over right? We can all go home? Wait a minute
buckaroo; there is more going on here than meets the eye. Once again nobody is
asking the right questions.

What struck me as odd was the amount, 2,500 per lunch. That
lunch consisted of kimchi, pickled radishes, quail eggs, and cookie like
biscuits. I assume as well, that would include rice, since a meal in Korea is
not a meal without rice. Now at one of my favorite places for cheap eats I get
a generous serving of a “chigae” (a stew), a noodle appetizer,
rice, and five different side dishes (and one of those in invariably a meat
side dish). All of this costs me only 3,500 won.

Consider the cost of the student meal based on grocery store
prices from the Lotte Mart (portion size a guestimate based on what I saw on


4.5kg 19,000 won (200g serv.)

863 won

Picked radish

550g 1,500 won (est. 8 serv.)

188 won

Quail eggs

30ct. 1,000 won (4pc serv.)

133 won


210g 1,000 (est. 12 serv) Note: cannot find the same

83 won

Total Cost of Meal

1267 won

As you can see the total full retail price for these items
is much less that the 2,500 charged. And that is at retail, this does not take
into account the volume discounts for buying enough for 250,000 meals.

Now lets think labor. The cooking for this is almost nil.
The only cooked item is the quail eggs, which you can easily do in bulk in a
few large pots (there only boiled eggs for god sakes!). A guestimate that it
takes about 10 seconds to plate each meal. Considering the skill involved I do not think the minimum
(3,000 won/hr) is too outrageous to assume. That makes labor costs per meal
about 5 won, again basically negligible portions of that 2,500 won per meal. To
be charitable lets round up, 1300 won per lunch total.

So somehow we are supposed to believe that the 48%
discrepancy between he FULL RETAIL PRICE and the price the government paid was
simply packaging and distribution? Again keep in mind, the margin would be even
better in reality because they are buying in bulk.

Ladies and Gentlemen what we have here is NOT a food quality
scandal, but a corruption scandal, AND ONE PURPETURATED ON POOR NEEDY CHILDREN



Post a Comment

<< Home