Federal Government on Wednesday unveiled plans to provide free meals to all primary school children nationwide by 2030.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq gave the assurance in Abuja, at the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme Policy Stakeholder Validation workshop.
The Minister who was represented by the National Coordinator, National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), Dr. Umar Bindir, said that, though the federal government presently provides free meal to over 10 million primary 1-3 children nationwide, the programme has succeeded in lifting thousands of people in the food supply value chain from abject poverty.
She said: “Everybody is aware of the composition of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) into four clusters, aimed at addressing poverty in the country.
“The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) started in 2016, after the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. After the creation of the Ministry in 2019, the ministry took over the implementation. Kwara and Bayelsa were the only two States that didn’t onboard, but as I speak with you, all 36 states of the country and the FCT are onboarded in the NHGSFP.
“The major objective is to feed children in public primary schools, especially children of the poor. We have hundreds of thousands of women cooking for over 10 million children enrolled in the programme nationwide.
“They don’t just cook, but provide nutritious meal for children in Primary 1 to 3. They are trained on how to prepare food in healthy environment. This strategy has raised the cooks to become mamaput and restaurant owners and other businesses that have lifted them from poverty.
“Also, in the process of the programme, small scale farmers have taken advantage of the programme to sell their products. Even those who sell perishable items like meat, tomatoes, eggs, etc, now supply to the cooks on time and get paid, thereby encouraging their businesses.
“The good thing is that the money invested in the programme always get to the community because when you pay the cook or farmer, the money ends up in the community.
“To crown it all, the payment has opened the channel for everyone to have bank accounts. We don’t encourage cash transactions. The major event today is to validate the documents we have been using for the implementation of the NHGSFP.
“We have nutritionists, dieticians and other stakeholders who have been working with us since the inception of the programme. We have been improving on a daily basis. Therefore, we hope that the document will be updated as we go on with the programme.”
Also speaking, the Technical Assistant to the Minister and NHGSFP Team Lead, Aishatu Digil, during her presentation on the National School Feeding policy, said that the target of the programme is to ensure every school child receives free meal by 2030.
“As captured in the policy, our target is to ensure that every school child receives free meal by 2030. We are almost there. All the states have enrolled in the programme.
“As you know, good and nutritious meal is important for child development, so the programme policy is targeted at ensuring that school children eat healthy and nutritious meal. 100 percent of feeding fund is provided by the federal government, while the state governments implements the programme.
“In the policy document, I recommended that there is need to source for additional funding for the implementation of the programme, so I hope we will deliberate and make input on it,” she said.