School feeding project meets needs of pupils

Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schäfer visited Luleka Primary School last Thursday to plant fruit trees.

Poverty and under-nutrition affects a large percentage of the population. As a result, many learners arrive at school hungry. And as part of the Mandela Month celebrations, Schäfer also donated funds to Isiphiwo Primary School, to assist them in improving their food gardens to supplement their feeding programmes.

“It is a sad reality that many children in South Africa arrive at school daily with an empty stomach. This is why the Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that our poorer learners receive not just one, but two nutritious meals at school every day,” she said.

The School Nutrition Programme feeds more than 471 000 learners from 996 schools.

In addition, the Western Cape government continues to feed over 76 000 learners in 309 quintile four and five schools that serve poorer communities, as well as over 26 000 children in the after school programme to ensure that poorer learners are able to participate. Many of these schools supplement their feeding programmes with innovative food gardens.

The National Development Plan (NDP) states that “by 2030, feeding schemes in schools should cover all children in need, and provide food that is high in nutritional content and rich in vitamins”.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says they are on track to achieve this goal.

“Our successful school nutrition programme has expanded year on year to assist more and more learners.

“In addition to supplying food, the scheme encourages food production, for example, in school food gardens, and education on nutrition,” said Schäfer.

This programme has expanded year on year, with allocations to the feeding scheme having more than doubled since 2009/2010.

This year is no different. The amount allocated to the feeding programme for the 2018/2019 financial year is just over R357m.

The feeding scheme at Luleka Primary School feeds 1226 learners two meals every day while the food garden at Isiphiwo Primary School feeds 1200.

Not only does the food supplement their feeding programme, but they also provide an area of the garden for the community to use to assist with food security.

Members of the community maintain the garden and their presence acts as a deterrent for burglars or vandals when schools are closed.

The department has designed the menus to ensure that children receive nutrition that is adequate for what they need to learn and play.

“This is an outstanding example of what we can achieve when we work ‘Better Together’, as the Western Cape Government’s motto indicates.

“I am so impressed by how well their large food garden is maintained and was pleased to see nutritious vegetables such as spinach, onions and potatoes growing in the garden. I hope that the apple and lemon tree that I planted today will be a welcome addition to their garden.

“The school Principal, Mr (Gcobani) Mtoba and his team have created an extraordinary food garden which is an excellent example of the kind of innovation that we wish to see in our schools,” Schäfer said.

Menus are designed by dieticians to improve the general nutritional status of the children and consist of warm, cooked meals.

The school feeding scheme not only provides more nutrition for our learners, but also encourages them to arrive early for school and stay in school, Schäfer said.

It allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs and helps to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve cognitive abilities.