Over 600 students from schools along the East Coast Demerara are now benefiting from the Ministry of Education’s breakfast programme as part of a feasibility study being conducted for the expansion of the national School Feeding Programme (SFP).
The Ministry of Education launched the programme on April 3rd and hopes to examine the feasibility of implementing it in schools along the coastal region, where there are no in-school cooking facilities.
With this study, it is expected that the accumulation of data relevant to cost, nutritional adequacy and community engagement can be used to guide decisions on the design and budgetary implications of a full SFP to be implemented in phases.
“The hunger experienced by a child due to an inadequate breakfast and/or because he or she has a long and arduous journey to school, is a major contributor to poor academic achievement. The Ministry of Education now wishes to expand and improve its school feeding programme to include a nutritionally balanced breakfast so that the impact of the crucial morning learning hours is not diminished,” a statement from the ministry said.
At present, the programme is implemented at schools in the Buxton, Friendship and Enmore areas and provides breakfast comprising a sandwich and a flavoured milk-based drink to 657 children from three primary and six nursery schools between the hours of 8 and 8.30 am Monday to Friday.
In the statement, it was noted that the areas were selected based on a need to ensure that cultural acceptability is assessed within the two main coastal ethnic groups.
“These communities have considerable experience of community efforts and all communities have women with food handlers’ certificates; training would thus be needed only in basic nutrition and bookkeeping,” it said.
Several objectives have been set by the ministry, some of which include determining the feasibility of providing a nutritious breakfast that contributes to healthy eating habits with a sustainable approach based on the use of locally produced foods and the cost per child of the programme as well as the increase of the cost if utilising local and healthy food
Further, the study would also pay attention to the extent of the communities’ engagement and their willingness to help and contribute facilities, time, cash or food commodities, enhancing social participation (families, PTA, and the entire community) among others.
The already established SFP currently provides a snack of fortified biscuits and juice to all children in nursery schools and in Grades 1 and 2 of primary schools in the coastal area, while those in Hinterland schools are offered a hot lunch, prepared by trained community cooks and based, to the extent possible, on foods produced by the community.
The ministry also wished to acknowledge that like the ongoing hinterland community-based lunch programme, another intention of the breakfast programme is to engage local communities and local farmers to garner their support as the SFP contributes to poverty reduction, national development and national food and nutrition security.
At the end of the study, it is expected that a presentation of the findings would be done at a stakeholders’ meeting where Phase II of the programme will be discussed.
This second phase will see the establishment of an inter-sectoral committee to guide all school feeding activities and engage key relevant ministries while other future phases will include the testing of school gardens and the establishment of a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system.