Caterers of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) want urgent increment in the feeding grant, insisting that the amount being allocated by the government to prepare daily nutritious meals for pupils is woefully insignificant.
According to them, the GH¢1.00 is not enough to purchase food items on the market to prepare quality meals and serve in the right quantity for the children, most of whom come to school on empty stomach.
They disclosed that an amount of GH¢0.03 is even deducted from source as tax component from each of the GH¢1.00 paid to them.
This implies that the caterers do not receive exactly the GH¢1.00, but GH¢0.97 per child per day.
Some of the caterers in the Bono East Region complained bitterly to some officials of the Ghana School Feeding Programme and the World Food Programme who had come to the region for a week-long joint monitoring to assess the performance of the caterers and the impact of the Programme.
The distraught caterers even though appreciated the government for the introduction of the Programme and the great impact it is making in the lives of millions of Ghanaian children in the deprived schools, they disclosed how it is sometimes inconveniencing most of them.
“We have tried so much to be quiet over the years, hoping that something will be done to increase the feeding grant to at least GH¢2.00 or GH¢2.50 so that we can meet the cost of food items on the market but to no avail.
“We are crying and crying but nobody seems to hear us out. Prices of items are being increased almost every day, and so the President must know that we cannot go to the market with the same GH¢1.00.”
The caterers asserted that a bag of beans which was sold between GH¢250.00 and GH¢300.00 last year, now sells between GH¢800.00 and GH¢950.00. A bowl of gari has also moved from GH¢6.00 to GH¢25.00, a maxi bag of local rice moved from GH¢200.00 to GH¢450.00 and prices of cooking oil, meat, fish and vegetables have also gone up astronomically especially in the last 6 months.
They indicated that even though it is a policy direction for all the caterers to patronize locally produced foodstuffs from the local farmers, almost all the caterers prefer the imported foods because they are far cheaper.
The caterers said that some of them are still managing to cook for the school children because the imported food suppliers are always willing to supply food and other items like tin tomatoes, cooking oil and canned fish to them on credit, unlike the local farmers.
They also raised serious concern about the long delay in the payment of their arrears by the government, which they indicated, put them under unnecessary pressure.
“We are supposed to pre-finance the cooking for just one term and receive payment the following term. But for a long time now, the government always fails to pay us on time; and most at times we do not receive our payment in full.
“Sometimes instead of 66 cooking days' arrears, the government can decide to pay us 20, 25 or 30 days and we will have to struggle for a long time before we will receive the remaining payments. And because we have to pay our cooks and suppliers at all cost, we always have to go and borrow from different sources, which put us in an uncomfortable situation.”
In reaction to the concerns raised by the caterers, the GSFP National Coordinator, Mrs. Gertrude Quashigah, appealed to the caterers to calm down and exercise restraint, noting that everything is being done towards the upwards adjustment of the feeding grant.
She said management of GSFP has been engaging the government for a while now on the issue.
According to her, the GSFP has submitted a compelling proposal to the government through the supervisory ministry for an upward adjustment of the feeding grant.
Mrs. Quashigah further revealed that between GH¢2.00 and GH¢3.00 has been proposed taking into account the prevailing economic trend in the country.
She expressed optimism that government would respond positively to the proposal.
She recalled that in 2018, government accepted GSFP's proposal and increased the feeding grant from GHp80 to GH¢1.00.
She therefore assured the caterers and Ghanaians in general that government is genuinely committed to the sustainability of the Programme.