> GSFP Abrogates Contracts Of Caterers
The Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), introduced in 2005 with 10 pilot schools drawn from each region, has expanded tremendously in the last three years and now covers 987 schools throughout the country.
It is an initiative of the comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) Pillar Three which seeks to enhance food security and reduce hunger in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on hunger, poverty and malnutrition.The programme has a short term objective of contributing to the reduction of short-term hunger and malnutrition.
It also aims at improving enrolment, attendance and retention, improving performance and increasing domestic food production.
The GSFP initiative is focused on providing children in public pre-school and primary schools with one hot, adequate and nutritious meal per day, using locally grown foodstuffs.
A look at the programme points to the fact that the objectives are being met although it is yet to be extended to all schools.
Perhaps the greatest danger to the achievement of the objectives are the activities of some caterers working under the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP}.
In their desire to make profit, they provide the children with small quantities of food and, sometimes, what they serve is not nutritious. Some are not good for the health of the children.
A few months ago, pupils of Apenkwa Presbyterian Primary School had cause to complain about jollof rice prepared for them by one of the caterers.
Instead of using tomatoes as is usually done, the caterer used food colour in preparation of the meal. The children refused to eat the food.
Last week, the contracts of caterers for the Kwadaso and Asuoyeboah Cluster of Schools in Kumasi were abrogated by the GSFP Secretariat for the persistent use of rotten ingredients in the preparation of meals.
New caterers have since been contracted for the schools.
A few days ago, personnel at the secretariat of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) seized soggy boiled ripe plantain prepared for pupils of the Abelenkpe Primary A and B by a caterer under the programme.
The plantain, prepared with 'kontomire' stew, was too ripe and was of the grade usually used to prepare 'Kaklo', a local snack.
Teachers of the school, apparently shocked when the food was brought in, prevented the children from eating it and informed officials of the secretariat, who seized the food.
Ms Betty Vander Pallen, the caterer, was not available when the food was seized.
The food, meant to be served to 58 pupils, was also three hours late.
The angered National Co-ordinator of the GSFP, Mr Michael Nsowah, told the Daily Graphic after inspecting the food, abrogated the contract of the caterer.
“It is clear she cannot do the work. This is food for human beings and it can cause them disease,” he said.
“We will give her a letter abrogating her contract and we will get a new caterer for the school,” he added.
Mr Nsowah said the objective of the GSFP was to give schoolchildren one hot nutritious meal a day, and added that the secretariat would not allow anything to defeat that objective.
He noted that although generally the caterers were helping realise that dream, there were some who were greedy and who wanted to maximise profit to the detriment of the health of the children.
“This will not be allowed to happen,” he said.
The Deputy National Co-ordinator in charge of Operations of the GSFP, Mrs Mary Ansong, said four weeks ago, she received a call from the same school about food prepared by that same caterer for the children.
She said she proceeded to the school to find that the quantity of rice served to each child was inadequate, and that there was neither meat nor fish in the stew except a few slices of sausage.
The Deputy Vice President of the Greater Accra School Feeding Caterers Association, Mrs Nancy Gower, said the activities of some of the caterers were becoming an embarrassment.
Studies have shown that the GSFP initiative has led to increase in enrolment, attendance and retention of both kindergarten and primary school children within public schools in Ghana.
The increase has occurred more in rural areas, which clearly shows that if the programme continues to target especially the poor schools in those districts and communities, poverty would significantly be reduced.
The GSFP secretariat has a responsibility to be vigilant and continue to expose those cooks who would like to destroy the noble objectives of the programme through their selfish profit-making interests.
The health and well-being of our children should over-ride the desire by individuals to get money into their pockets.
Story By Mark-Anthony Vinorkor
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