Gender ministry cautions caterers against banku in plastics for pupils

Mrs Cynthia Mamle Morrison, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP), has cautioned caterers of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), to desist from the penchant of rapping banku in plastics for pupils.

She explained that soft black polythene and light rubber used for the packaging of hot banku for longer periods could be dangerous to a consumer’s health.

Eating hot foods from plastics could cause cancer and other health complications, especially in children under three years due to biphenyl (an industrial chemical added to products, including plastic food containers) that could seep into hot foods.

Polythene bags were made up of carbon compounds and therefore when those particles got into the stomach, can cause stomach cancer.

Mrs Morrison gave the caution at day’s Regional stakeholders’ workshop on Cost-benefit Analysis (CBA) of the 2018 report of the Ghana School Feeding Programme at Cape Coast on Monday.

It brought together Coordinators of Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Ghana Education Service ( GES), Ghana Health Service (GHS)  caterers, cooks and the media.

The programme was organised by the Gender Ministry with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) to disseminate the report findings of CBA, the benefits of GSFP and agree on the way forward.

The GSFP is a government programme introduced in 2005 to provide one nutritious meal to primary school pupils in deprived schools across the country, with the intermediate objective of reducing hunger and malnutrition; increasing school enrolment, retention and attendance and to boost local food production.

Touching on the recommendations of the report, Mrs Morrison called on communities to support the government to construct a modern kitchen, portable drinking water, and lands for school to grow and eat their own food.

School authorities were also charged to prioritize and revive the concept of school farms to serve as the food basket to feed pupils to reduce government expenditure on school feeding.

This will inculcate in pupils the habit of eating what they grow, reduce food imports and effectively erase the miscommunication regarding agriculture as punishment but accept as a viable venture worthy of investing.

Mrs Morrison partly attributed the delays in carters payments to lack of basic understanding of payment requirements and procedures by some caterers and pleaded with them to exercise patience as the Ministry initiate moves drastically reduce corruption and payments.

Mrs Akyere Frimpong Manu, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at GSFP Secretariat announced plans by the Ministry to train caterers on book-keeping and managerial skills to improve efficiency.

The move is hinged on the fact that most caterers lack the basic understanding, and analytical skills of basic cost-benefit analysis of expenditure and incomes to reap the desired returns on their investment.

It forms part of government’s initiatives to address the delays in payment to caterers of the GSFP, due misunderstanding of financial audits and payment processes resulting in compromises on the quality and quantity of food given to the children.

The report further identifies major challenges GSFP including no or inadequate canteens bowls, cups, cutlery, lack of knowledge in financial management, community support, and poor collaboration between GSFP and implementing actors.

Also, indicated that caterers were incurring an actual cost of GH¢1.06 exceeding the approved feeding grant of GH¢1.00 payable to caterers.

The report strangely revealed statistics of high school drop rate of 21.2 percent in schools of no school feeding and 19.8 percent of school with school feeding schools but was sharply contested by the sector minister and called for more investigations.

The report, however, recommended that a strong collaboration between the GSFP Secretariat and the Ghana Education Service at all levels, constant monitoring and evaluation with key development partners, and caterers.

It advocated for the establishment of GSFP Authority to administer, coordinate and formalise the structures, dedicated source of funding, and elimination of political interferences.

By: Isaac Asirifi

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