Gov’t to introduce feeding policy in schools

Students having lunch at school
Students having lunch at school

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development says it is planning to have a feeding policy that will help school children with diversified food sourced from local farmers.

Currently, the country has feeding guidelines only, which were developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) in 1993. The guidelines were designed for government-owned pre and primary schools, and currently covers 370,000 pupils in 758 primary schools. It also covers 290,000 vulnerable groups in 966 health facilities countrywide (that is children under five years, expectant and lactating mothers and TB out-patients).

When briefing the Ivorian delegation, Local Government and Rural Development minister Eric Molale recently said they have some challenges regarding this programme which include delays in procurement of commodities, long lead times for the execution of procurement activities due to appeals and queries from bidders, limited supplier capacity to meet tender and/or contract obligations such as adhering to specifications, pricing, adherence to delivery, schedules leading to irregular supplies and general contract implementation and long turnaround times for quality control testing.

He said the national laboratory is the only body undertaking quality testing of food commodities, hence food takes a long time at the testing centre though some have a short shelf life, like Tsabana and Malutu. “Initially, the main purpose was to promote school attendance and to combat hunger among pupils. However, over time, the menu was revised to introduce more products like fruits and vegetables to add nutrients, such as micronutrients, to promote optimal health, growth and development in children. We are reviewing the menu to incorporate homegrown meals.

The main objective is to promote entrepreneurship development (SMMEs) as well as agricultural production in an endeavour to create employment,” he said. “Home Grown School Feeding methodology (HGSF) is key as the government no longer emphasises retention of pupils in schools and combating hunger only but to provide children with diverse and nutritious food sourced locally from suppliers and farmers while at the same time boosting local economic development and job creation,” he added. Moreover, the minister said his Ministry is making some interventions like improving turnaround time for procurement of commodities, for example, to undertake early procurement process at six months before the expiry of the running contract.

Some of them, according to the minister, will include pre-bid meetings with suppliers as the interaction with bidders will give an opportunity to iron out issues from the onset, implementation of inventory management mechanisms - that triggers low stock situations before commodities are depleted, to set up an oversight body made up of key stakeholders for overseeing the implementation of HGSF and also reduce delays related to quality assurance of commodities by engaging private laboratories.

The current budget for the financial year amounts to P864,055,260, which covers all food commodities.

This is so because, in 2019, the government further introduced breakfast at primary schools, hence primary school pupils have two meals a day. One early in the morning before the start of lessons, and a midday meal. However, an extra meal is provided for children attending school in the Remote Area Settlements (RADS).

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