Schools feeding benefits only 21% of the poor

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Schools feeding

Widespread political interference and a lack of government funding for regular monitoring have led to only 21 percent of the poor benefitting from the school feeding programme, the 2017 UN Global Education Monitoring report has revealed.

The report, which reviewed about 18 school feeding policies globally, said school food provision requires transparency and clear lines of responsibility between government and private contractors.

It said all food providers should target those most in need.  Citing the case of Chile’s nutrition programme based on household vulnerability, as a case study the report said it is well-targeted to poor students.  An evaluation found that 80 percent of total programme funding to primary schools was concentrated in the lowest two income quintiles.

In Chile, “Providers bid online, specifying information on meals, pricing and adherence to strict nutrition and hygiene regulations.  An autonomous public corporation, reporting to the Ministry of Education, manages providers and monitors targeting, supported in part by twice-yearly household surveys.  At the school level, teachers allocate meals and, with a private contractor, record daily participation to monitor targeting”, the report said.

In Ghana, by contrast, the report said only 21 percent of feeding programme benefits accrued to the poor prompting the need for retargeting to the poorest communities.  In addition, it said poor community participation limits school-level implementation efforts.

Private sector involvement, according to the report, varies by country, saying Australia, Chile, Hong Kong (China), Spain, Sweden and the United States provide school meals primarily through private contractors.  Brazil, England, Finland and France have public-private arrangements.

But it said the case is different in Chile and Ghana, as the entire school feeding supply chain is outsourced.

The school feeding programme has been facing challenges since its inception.  Research by the Ghana Integrity Initiative, titled ‘Our Future at Stake: Corruption Risk in The Education Sector’, found that food cooked by caterers was sometimes served without any protein-meat, fish, beans, nuts bringing the food’s nutritional value into question.

Salamatu, a caterer under the School Feeding Programme in one of the schools covered by the GII research, said the 80 pesewas per pupil is inadequate to provide a nutritious meal.

“The figure we send to them, they always reduce it.  They only pay 80 pesewas per child to us”, she said.

In an attempt to reduce poverty, the government of Ghana in collaboration with the Dutch government, started the school feeding programme in 2005, known as the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP).

Four years after inception of the programme , it was recorded that enrolment, attendance and retention had improved appreciably in most schools implementing it.

But to make the policy succeed, the report suggested that government emphasises equity in public-private partnership contracts for services which should be available for public consultation and oversight.