Government’s School Feeding Programme which has accrued over two hundred thousand dollars per annum is considered a necessity despite the cost.
The School Feeding Programme administered by the Ministry of Education was founded in 1991 under the World Food Programme.Currently, thirty primary schools across the island are enrolled and have benefited from the programme with more being added annually.
According to the Programme Coordinator Pamela Guiste, the programme aims to provide primary school students with nutritious meals daily that would ensure their educational development.
Guiste highlighted that the programme is targeted at all students and is not limited to economic status. Without the programme, the Coordinator says, some students faced difficult circumstances.
For those students who lived afar and who walked to and from school every day, their learning was deficient and they were behind in their lessons. When they would go home for lunch, most times they would not return because of the distance they had to walk, however the School Feeding Programme met their needs.
A major problem which still exists according to Guiste is that some students still attend school without any breakfast and the intake is not sufficient to uphold the child.
She says that the School Feeding Programme was designed to overcome this. “The Feeding Programme has met its objectives in terms of allowing the children to stay in school under supervision where they have a hot nutritious meal. They can continue immediately in the post lunch period.”
The Coordinator responded to the question of the programme’s expansion. “The wish of the Ministry of Education and Government is that the Feeding Programme would be extended to all schools on the island however it could cost a lot of money to do so. Right now it’s a matter of prioritizing where next. Every year we’ve been putting schools on the feeding programme.”
Guiste voiced that in order to ensure the existence and expansion of the School Feeding Programme, several investments are necessary. “For any School Feeding Programme you have to set up some sort of infrastructure. You have to make sure that you have enough water, the kitchen is adequate, provide refrigerators, cookers and have tiled floors. Because you have to now work with the Environmental Health Department to make sure that the sanitary conditions are adequate.”
The guidelines for these meals are based on eating local, healthy and balanced. Variety is also incorporated in the development of the menu. To ensure that these principles are met, a system of monitoring those meals has been established.
“We have a head cook at every school. The Principal as the school’s manager is supposed to be supervising that head cook [and] I’ m the one doing the training with the cooks. When we have a Feeding Programme in any school, we recruit the parents who are going to be helping at the school. They are supposed to be certified food handlers and we go through the different menus with them.”
While the cost to parents and students remain at one dollar per day per child, significantly more [funds] are being regularly injected by Government. “Beside the food which would typically be over $200,000 dollars a year to feed the children, we also have to look at things like replacing stoves, refrigerators and freezers because every school has to have one, as well as several utensils. You have to do repairs to the cupboards and floors to meet standards set by the environmental health department, so it costs a lot.”
The Coordinator called for parents to subsidise the programme at their community schools by volunteering to prepare the dishes or by providing food items. Pamela Guiste has been involved with the School Feeding Programme for over a decade.
Source: news.gov.dm – GOVERNMENT’S SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME: A COSTLY NECESSITY
WRITTEN BY GIS DOMINICA ON 19 FEBRUARY 2014.