The free lunch meals for final year Junior High School (JHS) students and school staff across both public and private schools will cost the state approximately GH¢51.1m, Business24 estimates.
This is based on a cost per meal per day of GH¢3.5, which the National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Programme, Dr. Gertrude Quashigah, revealed last week.
About 584,000 students who returned to school on June 29 to prepare for the Basic Education Certification Examination (BECE) are benefitting from the intervention, in addition to 146,000 school staff, for a period of 20 school days, starting from August 24 to September 18. In all, there are about 730,000 beneficiaries of the intervention.
The intervention has brought relief to caterers who provide school meals for public basic schools under the Ghana School Feeding Programme, since their work was suspended following the closure of all schools in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The School Feeding Programme was introduced by the government in 2005 to improve basic school enrolment and contribute to reducing poverty in the country. Foodstuffs for preparing the meals are procured locally with the view to supporting local agriculture and farmers’ incomes.
Prior to the closure of schools, 2.98m children were being provided one hot meal per day through the programme, a 78 percent increase over the 1.67m beneficiaries in 2016.
However, the current daily feeding grant per child of GH¢1 has been criticised as “woefully inadequate” by campaign groups in the education sector.
In January, the Ghana Civil Society Platform on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) petitioned government to increase the grant to GH¢2.5 in order to enhance the quality of food served.
According to the group, the current amount fails to provide an adequate and healthy diet for child development and to ensure the attainment of the SDG on food and inequality.
In several parts of the world, school meals and school feeding have been used as an effective mechanism for addressing child nutrition, educational enrolment and retention, and hygiene issues.
They have also effectively provided income-generation, employment creation and economic integration benefits to communities in which they have been implemented.