There is now a political debate on whether the school feeding foods cards issued by the government were enough to supply everyone in need. Opposition MPs are painting a different picture to some of those on the opposite side when it comes to the COVID-19 social initiative.
The cards came about specifically to provide food support for households with a child/children registered on the National School Feeding Programme after schools were closed on March 13 to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, the process for collection and distribution involves the submission of names of the students on the School Feeding Register by the Ministry of Education. Once verified, the lists are sent to the MP’s offices where eligible recipients are called and informed of their collection dates and time.
To date, each Member of Parliament has been issued with 500 cards for distribution.
March 23—50 cards, March 27—47 cards, April 1—100 cards, April 9—100 cards and April 20—203 cards.
But not all MPs are happy with the quantity.
Cumoto/Manzanilla MP Christine Newallo-Hosein told Guardian Media, “Based on the current status of the listing following the distribution of 500 cards, I can safely say there are more than 1,000 students in my constituency that are yet to receive a food card…This is extremely distressing, to say the least.”
Her colleague on the opposition bench Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie shared similar sentiments.
“The list of parents of children who benefit from the school feeding programme is just under 1100, so 500 cards will not meet all needs,” he said
The shortage is also being reported on the government side.
D’ Abadie/Omera MP Ancil Antoine, “The food cards so far are insufficient because they are in high demand throughout the constituency.”
But there is at least one dissenting view and it came from San Fernando East Mp Randall Mitchell.
“They have been sufficient now for those families who have been rendered vulnerable by this pandemic.”
According to Education Minister Anthony Garcia, 33,000 students receive breakfast daily, while 79,000 get lunch.
500 cards multiplied by 41 MPs amounts to 20,500. Of course, there are households with more than one child benefiting from the programme.
Two of those children belong to Shenelle Nelson from Guico in Sangre Grande.
The problem is, according to Nelson, only one of her daughter’s names are on the MPs list and she is yet to receive the food card.
The single mother of two daughters, 9 and 11 years, said, “I not working, I was laid off it’s been very difficult.”
Nelson also said her predicament is not unique as she knows of others in her community facing the same challenge.
Complaints and the concerns have been plastered all over social media and in the DMs (direct messages) of media houses.
Guardian Media sought to get to the bottom the situation and sent questions to Minister of Social Development and Family Services Camille Robinson-Regis.
She said to date MPs collected 19992 cards and her ministry has the approval to distribute 20,500.
“Please understand that the initiative is intended to provide support to families whose children are registered with the School Feeding Programme. The Ministry received information from the Ministry of Education. We are aware that some families have multiple children attending school. We gave one card to a family.”
Minister Robinson-Regis also asked persons to be mindful that this is not the only food initiative of the Ministry.
“We have the Emergency Hamper distribution with Local Government bodies and a “market box” and Supermarket voucher distribution in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Supermarkets’ Association and the Poultry Association.”
She said the only “minor” delay with the cards was that some of the cards had faulty or no PINs.
This assistance was approved for three months. Recipients received all in one payment $1,530.00.