To provide students with healthy school lunch and create a sustainable farming system, Hsinchu County Magistrate Yang Wen-ke keeps one of his campaign promises by launching the project—Free Organic School Meals. With the support from the Council, the project will be put into effect from the following new semester in September. Then, roughly 50,000 students in 120 elementary and junior high schools in Hsinchu County will be served with locally-grown organic vegetables twice a week. On March 14, Hsinchu County Government Agriculture Department held a policy briefing at the auditorium of Hsinchu County Farmers' Association and invited nearly 100 local organic produce suppliers.
Magistrate Yang showed that offering organic food twice a week is just a start. The ultimate goal of the county government is to allow students to enjoy safe, healthy, and nutritious food every day. He hopes that Hsinchu County, where agriculture plays a crucial role, could take the lead in reducing food miles by carrying out "local production, local consumption," and do our part to save the earth.
Director of North Region Branch of Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA) Su Zong-zhen (蘇宗振) said that Hsinchu County is one of the few in Taiwan that has integrated organic produce supply with school meals. AFA will help Hsinchu County Government and Farmers' Association set up related software and hardware, such as production rewards of organic produce, transportation system, the wholesale center, and food testing facilities.
According to Education Department, the demand of organic vegetables is estimated to reach 10 tons for a week and 400 tons for a year. To ensure stable supply, Hsinchu County government will assist schools to sign contracts directly with local organic produce suppliers.
Tong Shao-hua(童紹華), a farmer in Jianshi Township, is looking forward to steady demands for organic produce in the future. He mentioned that he would like to know the proportion of root and tuber vegetables to leafy greens in the school lunch so that farmers could make definite production plans beforehand and grow produce accordingly. Xu Rong-wei(徐榮偉), another farmer in Jianshi Township, said that the prices of organic vegetables are less subject to fluctuation. This project will not only make children healthier but also allow farmers to adopt planned production, which is a win-win result.
To protect the environment and develop sustainable agriculture, the adoption of organic and eco-friendly farming practices was listed among the top ten agricultural policies by Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan. Since 2017, several new guiding measures have been taken to carry out the policy. For example, Hsinchu County Government has facilitated the establishment of public and private organic farming areas, set up organic food markets, promoted food and agricultural education, and provided subsidies for those who would like to obtain organic farming certification, equipment, and facilities. As of January, 2019, there were 92 certified organic farming operators with a total farming area of 151.28 hectares throughout Hsinchu County.