By Ushang Ewa
The Cross River State Government has announced plans to begin the feeding of 130,000 people in over 1,000 public schools in 6 weeks time.
The schools targeted include Pre-Primary, Primary and Junior secondary schools and will “not exceed 150 pupils in primaries one to three in all public schools in the 18 local government areas of Cross River State, with menu prepared from only locally available foods in the state” said Gabriel Okulaja, the Special Adviser food bank to Governor Ben Ayade said in a workshop held in partnership with the Federal Government Special Investment Program of the Office of the Vice President in his office in Calabar.
“We are to start feeding children in schools in about six weeks. A lot of work has been done. The first level is getting the schools, which we identified. We have also identified the number of vendors we need. The program provides for a number of people to be fed by a number of vendors” Okulaja said.
The program is part of the federal government’s Home Grown School Feeding Program and Okulaja who is the state coordinator, said that the process involves vendors for food processing, distribution and preparation for the institution located in the communities no matter their location reports The NATION Newspaper.
“A vendor is supposed to do a maximum of 150 per day. We have agreed on the state implementation framework, and the menus. We now go into the next level, which is the final screening of the vendors, which relates to their medicals and training based on the outcome of this workshop.
“An estimated number of pupils has not been fixed yet. We are still verifying the numbers. But what we have captured is about 130, 000. That is for the entry level. The final number would be out in about two weeks. Benefiting schools will be about 1,100 schools across the state. We are looking at nothing less than 1,000 vendors.”
He said Cross River State will be a “leading platform for sustaining the school feeding program” which he said also aims at eradicating poverty and will lead to the development of the state.
“We also have to enhance the value chain which has to do with the agricultural sector. We want to grow a local economy that would ensure we have sustainable communities,” Okulaja said.
A communique issued at the end of the workshop and signed by the Chairman, Etaba Okpa, the secretary, Demort Achor and 6 other members called for the domestication of the program and efficient supply of improved seeds, seedlings, fertilizers and other support mechanisms to small scale farmers to boost local production of agricultural produce.
The communique also called for the upward review of the NGN70 per meal budget as the price of foodstuffs have gone up in the past few months.