Factory workers say healthy food, if available, is unsustainable

Amid concerns raised by the Ministry of Health about the poor eating habits of factory workers, workers say they are left with no choice because healthy foods are not available to them.

Yu Rani, a 23-year-old garment factory worker, said no one sells healthy food to people like her.

She said, “I don’t know if the food I eat every day is nutritious. I realize it is bad for my health, but I have no other choice. Also, due to our modest wages, we factory workers cannot enjoy expensive meals.”

She added that it goes with the flow because it’s also hard to find regular healthy meals.

The majority of factory workers face health risks due to poor eating habits, said Brak Sovoneri, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health. She said they only eat to fill their stomachs and not for their health.

“The ministry will cooperate with other relevant ministries to examine foods sold to factory workers, to ensure that vendors are providing meals that are safe for consumption and not giving them low-quality vegetables or meat,” Sophonneary said.

Sophonneary said it is a fact that there are workers whose daily menu is a plate of rice and fried eggs because it is affordable and allows them to save money. Unfortunately, it also leads to nutritional deficiencies, prone to disease, and poor disease-fighting.

“They sometimes eat meals with nutrient rice, which cost between $0.5 and $0.75 because they can’t buy meals that cost more than $1. They don’t care what they eat, whether it’s dirty, spoiled, or improperly prepared.”

Chun Im, 30, a garment factory worker, said she can only spend two dollars on three meals a day.

“I make rice for myself and only buy food, I spend $0.50 for breakfast, $0.70 for lunch, and $0.65 for dinner. By doing this, I can save money to send back to my family.

“Since I’m poor, I don’t care what nutritious I eat or not, as long as I can earn money to support my family,” she added.

However, the ministry urged workers to think carefully about their daily intake and make improvements to their diets in order to be healthy.

But cutting food expenses may save the family money. But when they get sick, that money will go towards medical expenses. Instead of focusing on finding cheap food, consider finding healthier options,” Sovonnieri added.

Ran Virac, a 42-year-old food saleswoman near a garment factory in Takhmau, Kandal County, said her clients are mainly low-paid factory workers.

She said, “The food I sell is under $1.5, so the quality won’t be very good. I sell a chicken leg for $0.75, and of course it won’t match other expensive shops. I can’t raise the price either because the workers have very little money to buy food” .

Meanwhile, Sunny Sieg, a consultant with the Multi-Sectoral Food and Nutrition Security Project, said lifestyle and food habits are changing rapidly, especially in urban areas and “we must protect our children and families from consuming too much salt, sugar and other unhealthy elements.”

It also urged authorities to ensure food safety for traditional Khmer foods, which are mostly healthy, and whether people consume less unhealthy and processed foods.

She said healthy eating habits and food could be promoted with appropriate laws, such as introducing stricter rules on commercials for unhealthy products.

  • Tags: Factory workers, healthy food

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