PETALING JAYA: Healthcare professionals have hailed the Menu Rahmah programme introduced by the government, calling it a “saviour” of the low-income group’s health.

They say the RM5 meals for lunch and dinner, which come with protein from a serving of fish or chicken, a vegetable portion and white rice, provide enough of the daily nutrition required for the average Malaysian.

Farah Farhanah Hashim, who is a member of the Malaysian Dietitians Association, said: “Malnutrition can be defined as underweight, stunting, wasting, overweight or obesity. Comparing household income groups based on the National Health Morbidity Survey 2020, the B40 contributes the highest prevalence of malnourishment at 14.1%, followed by T20 at 13.2% and M40 at 12.3% of our 32 million population.

“The survey showed 14.8% of children (five to 17 years) and one in two adults were obese. As for the elderly and those at risk of malnutrition, it is about 30.8%. All of this is caused by malnourishment due to not consuming the correct amount of calories. Healthy food is expensive. Hence cheaper alternatives such as fast food were their preference.”

Farah Farhanah said Menu Rahmah helps B40 people by providing them with a macronutrient consisting of carbohydrates at 225 kilocalories (kcal), protein (210kcal) and fat (100kcal) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which come mainly from vegetables.

“The meal is suitable for Malaysians, especially malnourished children and obese adults, because it provides about 500kcal per meal. If an obese adult complies with 1,500kcal per day, it will help him to reduce his weight
by 0.5kg to 1kg per week. Meanwhile, malnourished children can get enough energy and calories needed daily.”

Farah Farhanah said the world currently has a food crisis, where nearly one in three people lacks regular access to adequate food.

“One in 10 people worldwide is suffering from hunger based on the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 published by the United Nations. I hope Menu Rahmah will be sustained in terms of its 3P – price, portion and plate – particularly to overcome malnourishment among those from the B40 group.

“At the same time, as Menu Rahmah represents the concept of a healthy plate for Malaysians, I hope it creates awareness among the public to choose their meals wisely and healthily. I would suggest the meal be improved and turned into a healthier version. Please reduce the gravy as it contains oil, and add a serving of fruit too,” she said.

Universiti Teknologi Mara nutritionist Assoc Prof Dr Mahenderan Appukutty said the meal can help the public gain access to affordable food and meet the nutrient requirement to a certain level.

He said statistics on malnourished Malaysians currently remain the same as in 2020.

“The menu is promoted for lunch and dinner. If the public consume the meal according to their daily requirements, then it will be helpful. I suggest the menu be alternated between animal protein (chicken, fish, eggs or cheese) and plant-based protein (tempeh, tofu, legumes and nuts).

“Menu Rahmah can educate and empower local food vendors to use locally grown foods and reduce fat, salt and sugar in the preparation as they can practise healthy cooking methods,” he said.

Menu Rahmah is a programme launched by the Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry for the hardcore poor and targets the participation of 15,000 restaurants nationwide.

Last month, its minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said around 12,000 restaurants had offered the menu, including those affiliated with the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association and Mydin supermarket outlets nationwide.