The Nigerian Government has approved the enrolment of an additional one million pupils into its National Home Growth School Feeding Programme NHGSFP across the country.
The country’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar – Farouq revealed this at an event organised to commemorate this year’s 7th edition of Africa Day of School Feeding held in Abuja Nigeria’s capital.
The Minister said currently, the total number of children enrolled on the NHGSFP stood at 8,881,773.
She noted that out of the number enrolled, 4.1 million pupils have so far been verified and captured on the NHGSFP database, in line with the Ministry’s ongoing efforts at establishing a verifiable database of beneficiaries across all of its programmes and interventions.
Review of cost of meal
Umar-Farouq further hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari has granted the approval for the upward review of the daily cost of school children feeding from 70 to 100 naira per meal per child which comes along with increased monitoring and tighter regulations.
The Minister said that globally, school feeding programmes are recognized as an essential part of social safety nets deployed to address both malnutrition and poverty amongst low-income households and the programme is conceived as a multi-sectoral intervention, with substantial gains expected in educational, health and socioeconomic outcomes.
The ministry has also forged viable working partnership with relevant food and nutrition association and agencies such as the Nutrition Society of Nigeria and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control NAFDAC, to provide the required regulatory oversight and also monitor compliance on hygiene, food safety, and meals quality standards.
The ministry is also working closely with World Food Programme WAP, which is providing technical support, capacity building and policy guidance in the implementation of the NHGSFP.
Impact of NHGSFP
The NHGSFP has undoubtedly had a major impact on school children through a significant increase in school enrolment and attendance, along with a corresponding improvement in the nutrition and health status of beneficiary pupils credited to the nutritious meals that is now made freely available to them at their respective schools.
The Minister said other verifiable outcomes of the programme include, boosting of the local economies and facilitating job creation through the activities of cooks, smallholder farmers, transporters and numerous aggregators engaged nationwide.
“In addition, the Ministry, in collaborative partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education and other relevant stakeholders, is currently spearheading the planned roll-out of the Alternate School Programme (ASP), through which education will expectedly be taken directly to the teeming Out – of – School – Children (OOSCs) at their respective Stations, along with the provision of two free meals from the NHGSFP scheme.
All of these initiatives fall squarely in line with the abiding desire and commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to scale up the implementation of NHGSFP to reach even more beneficiaries nationwide. This is against the backdrop of the Government’s commitment to achieving the goals of the National Food Systems Transformation Pathway, which include reduction of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, and reduction of poverty, amongst others,” she stated.
Effects of Covid-19
Umar-Farouq said as part of government’s efforts to cushion the effects of the pandemic in 2020, the Ministry provided dry take home rations to targeted households of pupils on the program in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT.
She also disclosed that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is already fulfilling its commitments to the NHGSFP as provided in the World Food Programme Global School Meals Coalition, which is a call to responsive Governments to do more to reach more children with nutritious meals.
The national coordinator AUDA NEPAD Nigeria, Princess Gloria Akobundu stated that a lot of countries have indicated interest to come in for peer learning.
She added that with stronger collaboration and team work of all the stakeholders involved, certainly, meaningful impact will be made on the lives of the children.
Akobundu further said NEPAD Nigeria and NEPAD Continental have resolved to work as a team, as Africans to enhance the project so that African children will be the leaders they ought to be tomorrow.
The theme for this year’s 7th edition of the Africa Day of School Feeding is titled: “Nutrition and Human Capital Development in Africa through Increased Investment in Home Grown School Feeding”.