In this 2018 photo Cooks prepare box lunches for the School Feeding Programme at the National School Dietary Services Limited at the School Feeding Catering Centre in Chaguanas.

Anna-Lisa Paul

In an effort to ensure no child is deprived of a meal and no parent is unable to put food on their table, Government will spend $29 million to package market boxes containing fresh produce for a one-time delivery to all students registered on the National School Feeding Programme (NSFP).

The decision was announced by Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox following yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.

Speaking afterward, Cox said the initiative was being done in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (NAMDEVCO).

In a release, Cox said, “In light of Government’s continued efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the decision for the virtual reopening of the first term of the 2020/2021 academic year scheduled to run from September 1 to December 11, this has become necessary as the Government envisages that there will continue to be an urgent need to provide food security, where the nutritional needs of students are maintained, while they are away from school.”

The initiative is supposed to be the second phase of the temporary food support to children registered under the NSFP.

“It is proposed that for each child registered with the School Feeding Programme, the parent/guardian will be provided with food support for the period mid-October to mid-December 2020. NAMDEVCO will be providing the fresh produce while the Ministry of Education is responsible for providing the names of the children on the NSFP.”

The parent/guardian will receive the temporary food support valued at $250 to cover the school term between October and December 2020.

The Education Ministry, through the NSFP, will identify the composition of fresh produce in the market boxes and make the necessary arrangements for the delivery of the boxes to the needy families.

Cox explained, “If you have children going to different schools and they are registered with the NSFP, they will each receive a market-box.”

In this instance, she said families with multiple children will get more than one box of produce. Similarly, a family with more than one child attending the same school and registered with the NSFP will also be entitled to more than one box.

Asked how they expected this to last through the two months outlined, Cox said, “It is not to last over that period…it is something to assist the parents who are still continuing to receive financial assistance in the form of grants and food card top-ups.”

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated that unique measures be employed to ensure the well-being of all citizens and this was just another way to ensure that persons do not go hungry while they are out of school’s physical environment.