Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Senator the Honourable Donna Cox, accompanied by Permanent Secretary Sheila Seecharan, views some of the produce provided to recipients of the school Feeding Programme during the tour on Tuesday 8 December 2020. (Image courtesy Ministry of Social Development and Family Services)

“There is sufficient food in the hamper boxes NAMDEVO is providing in its food initiative for school children, and people should stop making mischief…”

That’s the assessment of Senator Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, following her tour of the facilities at NAMDEVCO’s Packing House in Piarco, earlier today.

The visit to the Packing House came following several complaints on social media  of  alleged  depletion  of  the  Hamper  boxes, which  are  being  distributed  to children registered under the National School Feeding Programme, at  present.

“I  have  seen  and  received  several  complaints  from  persons  who indicated that the items are insufficient, so today, I have the opportunity to witness and explore the produce myself.  It would seem that some persons are being mischievous and removing items from the bags before they take photos and post for circulation on Social Media,” Minister Cox explained. 

She stated: “Despite this, I am quite pleased by the quality and quantity of items which make up the boxes, and I am confident that this initiative is a very good one.  In fact, since the distributions began on November 30th, several beneficiaries have expressed gratitude for the Hamper Boxes.”

“The Government—through the Ministries of Social Development and Family Services, Education and Agriculture, Land and Fisheries—remains committed to bringing relief to those who have been negatively affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that no one is left behind,” she added.

According to Minister Cox, the initiative creates a local market for the nation’s farmers.

“It is my hope  that  our  nation’s  youth  will  take  example  and  be  encouraged  to  make  agriculture  their preferred career choice,” she said.

The Minister was accompanied by Permanent Secretary Sheila Seecharan, and joined by NAMDEVCO’s Chief Executive Officer Ms Nirmala Debysingh-Persad, as well as the Deputy Chairman of the Board, Mr Wayne Inniss.

According to Ms Debysingh-Persad, the food packages—which comprise a mixture of fresh produce such as vegetable, fruits, provisions and milk—will provide balanced and nutritional meals for the country’s children. 

“Fruits and  vegetables  were  selected  from  farms  registered  with NAMDEVCO, which  are certified and monitored for good agricultural practices, farms that can consistently provide high quality and nutritional food to recipients,” she noted.

Each recipient will receive a hamper valued at $250.00, which comprises two bags of produce containing a bag of ground provisions,  callaloo  bush,  pumpkin,  a  bag  of  local  fruits  and  vegetables  including  pineapples,  melons, melongene, tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, as well as a carton of milk and cocoa.

“Some 79, 000 children registered under the school nutrition programme will benefit from this initiative, which will cost taxpayers $19.75 million,” said Permanent Secretary Sheila Seecharan.

NAMDEVCO intends to distribute 1,300 packages per day.  

Areas which already have received packages since distribution began on November 30th include: Fyzabad, Mayaro South Oropouche, Moruga, Rio Claro, Princes Town, Marabella, Pleasantville, Caroni, Couva, El Dorado, Arima, St Augustine Maloney, La Horquetta, El  Socorro,  Tacarigua,  Aranguez,  Blanchisseuse,  Carenage,  Diego  Martin,  Sangre  Grande, Valencia and Tamana.