Before the advent of Covid-19, the National School Nutrition Programme provided more than 9.6 million of South Africa's most vulnerable learners with a nutritious meal every day at school. The programme, which operates in all quintile 1-3 schools in the country, is funded through a conditional grant.
For the 2020/2021 financial year, the National Treasury allocated R7.7-billion for the provision of school meals.
While this grant has not been subject to cuts or reprioritisations like other allocations to the basic education sector, the grant has also not received any additional funding now or over the medium term to deal with the additional cost burdens imposed by Covid-19.
R50-million of existing National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) funding - labelled as "savings" from when the NSNP was suspended between March and July 2020 due to school closures - was repurposed within the grant in the June Supplementary Budget. This was used to pay for Covid-19 expenses such as sanitisers and personal protective equipment (PPE) for volunteer food handlers who prepare meals.
This aligns with Treasury's decision not to allocate the basic education sector any additional funding to address challenges imposed by Covid-19. This has resulted in the use of already stretched budgets...