New Democratic Party (NDP) senator Shevern John has praised the government’s Zero Hunger Trust Fund and School Feeding Program initiatives.
However, the senator, in parliament on Thursday, called on the government to extend the feeding program beyond lunch to include breakfast and asked also that trust fund money be used to provide parents from impoverished backgrounds with food vouchers.
“So Madame Speaker, I from where I am…I am asking that more be put into this Bill that considerations be given to give students breakfast which is very important and not only lunch.
“Because I have seen it within my confines, students coming to school without breakfast so I am asking that consideration be given to that because Madame Speaker, based on the financial reports tabled in this house, the trust fund has a lot of money and it can be extended…” John said in parliament.
When school is in session, the School Feeding Program feeds over 7000 students daily. In the North Windward and North Leeward districts, enrolment in the School Feeding Program is around 97%.
Senator John appealed for the programs to have more reach while making her contribution to the Zero Hunger Trust Fund Amendment Bill which was tabled by Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves.
Senator John, a former teacher, stressed that she is very grateful for the Zero Hunger Trust Fund and the School Feeding Program as before she became a member of parliament, she saw the positive impact of the programs within various schools.
“I was also part of my school feeding program and that is a secondary school, and I know within the Zero Hunger Trust Fund the focus mainly is on the primary schools, but we also have the problems within the secondary schools where many students would come to school without a proper meal,” John said.
She noted that she was instrumental in getting help for students at the school at which she taught and has seen the positive impact of the programs.
“….because before that, a number of our students were going home at 12’ 0 clock because they had no meal, so the implication of the Zero Hunger Trust fund and the adopt a classroom where we have students given the free meals, where we have students given vouchers to buy their book bags at the end of the year, where we had students getting their eyes tested and getting their glasses, very very good initiative from the government,” Senator John commented.
She however noted of the need to be reminded of the poverty level and we a problem with unemployment and most of the students who depend on the feeding program are from vulnerable households.
The senator added that she is asking the government to find a way, now that schools are out because of the issues affecting us, to help students wherever they are, to be fed at this time.
And she would like to see food vouchers given to the parents of these students…”Because what happens within the school system, there are nutritious meals, but the only person who can really care for their children in the way they ought to be cared for is their parents.
“ so I’m hoping we can look into that to ensure no children will go to bed hungry or come to school hungry,” the Senator stressed.
She added that when a child has no breakfast, they cannot concentrate and she has on more than one occasion given her lunch to students.
The Zero Hunger Trust Fund was established by an Act of Parliament (Act No 2 of 2016), as a mechanism to “finance the eradication of hunger in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Money for the Fund comes from a levy of 2% that has been placed on mobile telephone calls and international calls.