School Feeding Programme: Teachers, others complain about quality of food in Cross River

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Food vendors contracted to supply school children in Cross River State have lamented the money allocated to them to execute the contracts in a number of schools.

They said that due to the high cost of food items in the market, the money can no longer purchase quality items for the number of schools and children allocated to them.

They spoke when Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, sent a team of the School Feeding Programme to some schools in the state to give cooked food to some classes in Preparatory International School on ETA Agbo Road and Holy Trinity Schools near Watt Market Calabar.

The deputy headteacher of Preparatory International School, Lady Esther Afia, said several times the vendors would come with very small quantities of foods to the little children, adding that such, as well as the quality, do not assuage the levels of hunger of the children who came with the hope of getting such foods on the given day and time.

She said such has continued in recent times and there was a need for the government to look into the amounts of money allocated to the vendors so that they can be able to buy larger quantities of food items and prepare quality and hygienic food for the susceptible children.

“There are more than 700 students in my school that benefit from the school feeding programme. I would say that the foods help the students somehow. But I must stress that the quantities have drastically reduced in recent times. I supposed this is due to the high costs of food items in the markets. Government should please increase the funding to help the vendors improve the quality and quantity of the foods,” she said.

READ ALSO: FG School feeding: We’ve Spent N1.8bn in 3yrs in Ondo

One of the vendors, Mrs Galadima Saida, who takes charge of supplying class three of over 30 children, ages between six and nine, in the same school, said “I started to supply foods in May 2017 when the Government initiative started in the state, and it has been very interesting for me except especially because the children have fallen in love with me. However, the N70 per child is no longer sufficient going by the hyperinflation prevalent in the markets. There is a dire need for the amount given to us t be increased to tally with the economic situation.

“In Cross River, our money allocated to us does not come as usual. From 2020, some months we receive payments once or twice per term whereas it is supposed to be monthly so as to feed the children daily. So in this scenario how can we cope?”

The programme manager of the SFP in the state, Gabriel Okulaja, said “The programme is going through transitions. We are embarking on enumeration of data, schools, vendors etc to enable us to improve funding. The federal government is still passionate about it. Currently, we have 286,511 children across 1000 in the state participating. We are yet to cover all schools. More will be captured in the next phase of the programme.

“There are 433 cooks, 18 bakeries, 18 farms involved and over 5000 crates of eggs are used per feeding. I think this is good somehow for the local economy even though we couldn’t handle it during the COVID-19 periods in 2020.”.

Mrs Elizabeth Odu from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Abuja, said they are monitoring the quality and quantity of food supplied to the children.

“We are targeting to feed nine million children across schools in the country. Presently, we are capturing data and schools with a view to bettering the programme next year,” she said.

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