Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands. (FP)??

Although the provision of school meals to children continues to be a costly exercise, Government’s commitment to that programme will not wane.??

This was a key message sent last Friday by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands. His comments came as he delivered a lecture on the topic:The Growth and Development of the School Meals Programme in Barbados at the Harcourt Lewis Auditorium of the Barbados Public Workers’ Cooperative Credit Union Headquarters.

Senator Husbands recounted that when the programme started in 1963, it was totally funded by the Government of Barbados at an estimated cost of $250,000; and even when aided by the World Food Programme, in 1967, the contribution by Government had risen to $?? million.

While pointing out that recurrent costs had increased steadily during?? the period 1967-1984, he noted that partnership with the World Food Programme had provided ???financing’ by way of food stuff, thereby reducing the need for Barbados "to?? meet the full cost of supplies and?? materials".

With the end of the World Food Programme in 1984, the School Meals Programme was once again fully funded by Government. Stressing that the cost to Government to fund it was tremendous, Senator Husbands noted that for the financial year 2013-2014, the School Meals Department (SMD) would be funded to the tune of almost $33 million.

"This is out of a total budget allocation for the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, of almost $500 million," Senator Husbands said, explaining that approximately 21.8 per cent of the expenditure would go towards the food bill and 50 per cent to the salaries of workers involved in the administration of the programme as well as those persons in the preparation and distribution process.??

The Parliamentary Secretary stressed: "This level of expenditure demonstrates clearly Government’s commitment to the School Meals Programme and that Government accords a high priority, not only to the provision of adequate teaching facilities and materials but also the provision of adequate nutrition to the children at primary schools."

Acknowledging that the programme was developmental in nature, Senator Husbands added: "It is considered that this programme has created social development to the extent that a better fed young generation develops into a society which participates in the total development of the country.

??"The programme also affects the economic development of the country to the extent that the food industry and service industries have been able to expand in order to provide commodities for the programme over the years."

Regarding this as the "spin off" or "multiplier" effect of the 50-year-old programme, Senator Husbands contended that considerable business was generated locally by people who supplied various products to the SMD; evidenced, he said, in the development of the poultry industry and the vegetable garden industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary further noted that the School Meals Department, which provides employment for over 500 persons, had contributed to the teaching of proper table manners, social graces and etiquette that spanned ???how to use a knife and fork’.


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