The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Mgt &Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq has disclosed that apart from enriching Nigeria's future leaders( children) with more nutrition, it also hopes that if all training and best practices are properly entrenched it will take millions of kids off the streets.
According to her this is the aim for training cooks on best practices which includes hygiene , standardization , financial record keeping amongst others was carried out for 36 vendors in Cross River in a train the trainer one day workshop organised by the ministry.
Speaking in Calabar , the Minister represented, Sunday Okoh, Deputy Director, Legal Services , Federal Ministry of humanitarian Affairs said what they consider as the most essential part of the school feeding programme is adequate and quality nutritional value for the children and also ensuring that the food itself is prepared under highly hygienic environment.
Okoh further explained that there has been an increase in the number enrollment by children , meaning that the programme is gradually achieving it's aim which is quality nutrition for the children and making sure more kids leave the streets to school.
His words :" You know the food being prepared by these cooks is for children so they need to let the cooks know how to prepare this food in an hygienic environment. What they should do and what they should not do.
"You can imagine somebody who is cooking has a child running around, touching all of that to avoid bacteria because children are more exposed to disease than the adults. So the cooks need to be very careful how they prepare this food and also they should know how to procure their food.
"The testimony we are getting from states is that school enrollment in those classes - primary one to three has increased. Head teachers, headmasters have been testifying that they have more enrollment than they used to have before.
"This programme had help children. Those who were not going to school because there is food for them to eat, they go to school. The population in classes have increased.
"They are not supposed to take the food home. It is meant for them in school. But you see children will always be children. But I think what they are doing too will encourage the ones at home to be in school.
The federal government is serious about the programme that's is why we monitor at different levels , with head teachers as well as external person's .We have what we called M&E - Monitoring and Evaluation. The school may not know them. They can just come into the school to check what you are serving the children.
" If you are not serving them the standard we want then such a cook will be disciplined. It's either they take him off the list and get another person to replace him.
"The training is all about the localization of cooks. A cook cannot be in Odukpani and wants to bring food to Calabar Municipality. Before you get here, assuming there's go slow on the run, something may happen and the children have closed and they're gone, what happens to the food. The next thing we hear is they didn't come to feed them. Gradually things will change. The success story has been very marvelous.
"We are training 36 cooks, two from each local government. We have 18 local government in Cross River State. Now these are like master cooks ,it's a train the trainer scheme What they get here they go down. In Cross River we have over 4,050 cooks. These people as they are leaving here, each one of them is going to train 20 cooks in her local government each,"he said.
On his part , Mr. Gabriel Okulaja, the programme manager for the national homegrown school feeding programme, Cross River revealed that the training was a continuous one adding that this one was to enhance best practices among cooks under the programme in the state.
"In every school year we do training once or twice, but different kinds of training. This particular one is on best practices in food handling and all that. In the wisdom of the honourable minister she felt there was need at this stage of institutionalizing that we go back to the drawing board and ensure that the cooks on the programme are serving the programme with the best of practices at hand.
"Recently, they've intensified monitoring and all that and from few reports they found out there was need for us to intervene in that direction.
Beyond the fact that we have routine training - infact we just finished one in the state, the minister felt there was a need for a nationwide training to address these best practices. That's why we are having this.
"On the enrollment we have had increase. When we started in 2016, I think we started with about 117,000 pupils. Gradually we've enroll and expanded to cover schools in the state and we are now at about 300,000," he said .
Speaking on the challenges they are facing Okulaja said the prices of food stuff has skyrocketed as well as as cost of energy too.
"The first one there is the cost of food. Prices of foodstuffs escalating in the market. Cost of energy has gone up from N2,500 where it was. Now it's about N10,000. Storage for the cooks. You know there's no light.
"These are things that are bringing serious challenges to the programme. So we are working and hoping that we will find a seamless solution to it, but the solution lies in the general issues that affect you and I. The prices are just going up. That's the biggest problem I think we have, managing the prices with a fixed sum of money.
In his remarks, Barr. Sylvanus Inyang, legal adviser the State Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs representing the Commissioner/Focal person, Hon. (Mrs) Blessing Egbara said the purpose of this gathering today, was particularly to train the cooks that were employed to render services under the national homegrown school feeding programme.
According to him, it is one of the four cardinal branches of the national social investment programme.
"The training is prompted by the realization that most of the people who are engaged are not core professional caterers so they need to expose to them basic requirements for production of such food that will be consumed by a populated category of the beneficiaries," Inyang said.