THE Federal Government’s National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), introduced by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 was aimed at providing one meal per school day for all primary school pupils in Nigeria.
The programme aims to ensure quality food for school age children and improve their nutrition and boost enrolment and retention.
The managers of the programme say it has also created employment for thousands of Nigerians who are engaged as cooks and those involved in food stuff supply chain.
Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development said the NHGSFP is one of the four key interventions of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).
“I am happy to report that we have so far fed about 10 million pupils, and engaged over 100,000 cooks across the country. This is a great feat, but we are hoping to go beyond 10 million pupils.
“Employment opportunities were being created within the school feeding ecosystem in sectors of transportation, agriculture, energy supply and food materials packaging.
“It uses farm produce locally grown by smallholder farmers to provide children nutritious mid-day meals on every school day. The programme links local farmers to the education sector by facilitating their access to the school feeding market.
“The programme is designed to reduce poverty in all its forms and in collaboration between the Federal and State Governments,’’ Farouq said.
To achieve maximum result, the Federal Government is implementing the programme in partnership with other stakeholders.
“States, Local Governments and the private sector are all involved in the programme. The objective of the guidelines is to identify national nutritional requirements and reduce micronutrients deficiencies.
“We also need to promote nutrition best practices to strengthen the programme better.
“The nutritional status is one of the most important components and objectives of the programme and this is what brought about nutritional guidelines.
“The guidelines are so important to us knowing that part of the role of the state government is to develop the menu being developed by the nutritional officer in that state.
“We need to ensure that what is on that menu is of nutritional value and beneficial to the pupils nutritionally and academically,” “said the National Coordinator of NSIP, Dr Umar Bindir.
Furthermore, NHGSFP Team Leader, Hajiya Aishatu Digil the essence of the progrmme was that the children received quality feeding no matter the situation as witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digil said there had been on the steady increase in enrolment across the federation.
Meanwhile, the Headmistress, Igbariam Primary School I, Achara Layout, Enugu, Mrs Salome Obi, said that pupils were happy to benefit from the programme.
“After eating their meals each day, you see the pupils enlivened and eager to continue with their learning rather than feeling dull or hungry,’’ Obi said.
A cook in the programme, Mrs Uzoamaka Ogbu from Enugu, thanked the federal Government for engaging her and other women in the programme.
According to her, the NHGSFP has helped to improve the welfare of their families and other dependents.
Similarly, Mrs Mary Yuwadi, the Adamawa Focal Person from North East said: “apart from that, the meal is very nutritious because, we give them balanced diet and that has increased their nutrition.
“So, we want the government to continue with the programme and also appeal that schools that are not included in the programme should be included,’’ Yuwadi said.
Mr Kim Do-Hwan, Head of Capacity Strengthening and Policy Coherence Unit of World Food Programme (WFP) said that feeding children with nutritious meal would enhance their growth and productivity.
“The NHGSFP is a key pathway for the government of Nigeria to achieve one of its own objectives to advance progress towards the Sustainability Development Goal (SDG 2) on zero hunger.
“So, we at the WFP are here to help the government of Nigeria to achieve its objectives concerning the School Feeding Programme,’’ Kim said.
Although the programme has been largely successful, it has also witnessed some challenges, according to some of those responsible for its implementation.
The NHGSFP Programme Manager and Senior Special Adviser on Special Duties to Kogi State Governor, Abdulkareem Suleiman, said there was the need for commit more finance into the programme and appealed to the federal government to do that as soon as possible.
“There is the need for more support from the Federal Government for us to be able to operate smoothly.
“We also face challenges of utility, proper managing and evaluation’’, he said.
The coordinator of the programme in Kano, Aminu Zubair, said: “our challenges include corruption, which is affecting the standard of the system.
“When we realised diversion of raw materials by the cooks; we then introduced aggregators who supply the raw materials’’.
Senior Special Adviser to the governor on Multilateral and Intergovernmental Relations and Ondo State Focal Person, Mrs Bunmi Ademosu, called for periodic evaluation of the programme.
“The number of beneficiaries is supposed to be reviewed every four months and that has not been done in four years. The number of beneficiaries has increased and the food we provide can no longer meet the demand’’, Ademosu said.
However Bindir said the federal government was aware of the challenges faced by the programme and assured that strategies were being put in place to address them. (NAN)