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School feeding menu lacks nutritious options

Dili Weekly - November 17, 2016

Paulina Quintao – The school feeding menu has been criticized for being poor quality and lacking nutritious food.

National MP Manuel Castro said MPS had often questioned the school feeding program, but the issues had yet to be resolved.

"I went to the Uato-Carbau administrative post and one of the teachers came and told me that the government has provided rice but no money to buy the vegetables and that's why this rice was spoiled by weevils and we could not feed the students," he said at a plenary session.

The objective of the school feeding program is to encourage students to attend class by providing nutritious food to school as data showed that prior to the program being implemented many children skipped class and went home because they were hungry.

Castro said he was disappointed because the state had spent money to purchase large quantities of rice from overseas and distribute it to communities, including for the school feeding program, but then it just went to waste.

The same concerns were raised by MP Josefa Alvares Soares, who said the government was discriminating against private schools, which until now had no school feeding program in place.

"The school feeding program in private schools continues to be delayed and means that the students do not enjoy their rights," she said.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education and the Catholic Dioceses established the Konetil Commission to manage the school feeding program at private schools.

She therefore called on the government to conduct an investigation into the commission.

Meanwhile, the Director of Together we Help (HIAM) Health organization, Rosaria Martins da Cruz, said the school feeding menu did not meet standards for a balanced diet and lacked nutritional value.

She said most children did not have a balanced diet and consumed only a small quantity of meat and vegetables each day.

"They have insufficient food in their family [home], but they still get lack nutritious food at school, [so] it is not improving their health," she said.

She also called on the government to contribute to reducing malnutrition in the country by improving the school feeding menu.

She said the Ministries of Health and Education needed to work together to produce a national menu as a guideline for suppliers to follow.

She said the menu should include food that provides enrichment, protection and strength because the children need such food.

Source: http://www.thediliweekly.com/en/news/education/14180-school-feeding-menu-lacks-nutritious-options