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15.02.2005 General News

Increase cost of feeding fees in schools - Report

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Accra, Feb. 15, GNA - A group tasked to strategize and make proposals for achieving improved nutritional and health needs of students in educational institutions has recommended an increase in daily feeding cost.

"From the proposed menu the average daily feeding cost for schools in the Greater Accra, Central, Volta and Western Regions should be 9,168 cedis; Ashanti, Eastern and Brong Ahafo Regions should pay 8,150 cedis while Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions pay 8,989 cedis. Currently, the approved daily feeding fee stands at 6,200 cedis.

These were contained in a Report submitted by Professor Samuel K. Sefa-Dedeh, Dean of Faculty of Engineering Sciences, University of Ghana and Chairman of the working group, to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture at workshop in Accra.

Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, and Mr Ernest K Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture, jointly received the Report. Professor Sefa-Dedeh said the increase was mainly due to the introduction of animal protein and fruits in diets served in schools. Highlighting on the Report, Prof. Sefa-Dedeh said one of the objectives of the Report was to allow managers to adjust and use alternate ingredients through the use of local foods.

Prof. Sefa-Dedeh, who is a Food Scientist, suggested eating of variety of foods, especially plant-based food such as legumes, fruits and vegetables.

"This will promote agricultural production... create opportunities for employment and delivery of high quality food to the population." He said it was important to consult stakeholders for better appreciation of the need to improve on quality of meals served to students.

The Report said parents and guardians, government subsidy, scholarships or food aid should absorb the increased cost. Professor Sefah-Dedeh said efforts to promote health should begin as early in life as possible and educational institutional settings provided a good opportunity.

"Improving the nutritional status of the young population would improve the cost effectiveness of investment in education."

He said if the youth were properly fed and encouraged to balance it with physical activities "there would be no need for them to purchase energy drinks, which are quite expensive".

Professor Sefa-Dedeh noted that there were no clear policies on school feeding and urged the Ghana Education Service Committee on second cycle schools to factor in health and nutrition of the students into determining the daily feeding cost to ensure good nutrition and health. On problems confronting 71 schools where the survey was conduct, he said some of the schools faced the problem of lack of potable water while others used water from boreholes, rivers and streams. Others included lack of medical screening of food handlers and storage facilities.

According to him some of the schools had multiple sources of water, which included boreholes, pipe-borne, streams and rivers and tanker services.

"The use of raw untreated water must be discouraged and the Ministry of Education's policy on the construction of rain harvesters implemented."

He pointed out that some locations for food preparation might have very serious implications for food safety saying, sanitation facilities for kitchen staff were also found to be inadequate.

Professor Sefa-Dedeh called for the enforcement of national rules, regulations and guidelines on food safety and food handling.

"Innovative approaches must be developed to link the private sector to improve agricultural marketing and ensure delivery of safe and quality food commodities at competitive prices."

The head of institutions, domestic bursars and handlers of food should be sensitised or trained in basic good manufacturing practices for institutional feeding.

Major Quashigah said Ghana recorded a lower percentage in terms food security saying, "the meaning of food security had been misconstrued to mean food sufficiency".

He stressed the need for Ghana to have records on Intelligence Quotient in the country, as the nation had no records on that. Mrs Josephine Van-Ess, General Secretary of Domestic Bursars Association, said it was unfortunate that the newly proposed cost of feeding by the working group did not factor the cost of fuel, which played an important role.

"If you want to give the student food at well balanced diet, at appropriate quantity, the cost of fuel must be considered."

Mrs Van-Ess proposed 12,000 cedis as the daily feeding cost to be considered by Ghana Education Service.

Some heads of second cycle institutions noted the increase in daily feeding fees meant an increase in school fees.

They appealed to the public to take a second look at cost of living saying matters on good nutrition in various schools needed a national debate.

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