Strengthen school feeding programme, prioritise children’s nutrition, NGO tells FG

Angela Onwuzoo 

A non-governmental organisation empowering communities through healthcare and social development, Amal Outreach, has urged the Federal Government to prioritise the nutrition of children in the country for their optimal growth and development.
The NGO also asked the Federal Government to strengthen the school feeding programme to accommodate more children, saying most parents can no longer feed their children and meet their daily nutritional requirements due to the economic hardship in the country.
Programme Manager, Amal Outreach, Aishah Alli-Oluwafuyi, said expanding the school feeding programme was crucial especially for children from less privileged homes, citing the poverty and food insecurity confronting the country.
Alli-Oluwafuyi spoke during a health talk and fun activities for select primary schools in Lagos, organised by the NGO in collaboration with UAC Foods to commemorate this year’s Children’s Day, themed, “Investing in our Future means investing in our Children.
Some of the schools include; Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, Tinubu Methodist Primary School, and Ebute Elephant Primary School all in Lagos Island.

She noted that the school feeding programmes in some states had increased school attendance besides the nutritional benefits.

The school feeding programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the N500 billion funded Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government.
The programme, with the support of state governments, aims to support states to collectively feed over 24 million school children, which will make it the largest school feeding programme of its kind in Africa.
The goals include tackling poverty and improving the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups.

Alli-Oluwafuyi said the government could improve the quantity and quality of food given to the pupils by subsidising food products sold to shops in schools.

“These shops can sell fruits and vegetables to parents and the children in the schools.  Government should ensure that policies that support children’s development are followed through proper monitoring” she said.

Away from the government, the programme manager advised parents to adopt cheaper alternatives to giving their children good nutrition and not to allow economic hardship to make them compromise their diets.
Alli-Oluwafuyi explained, “While things are difficult, there are always alternatives. We do not compromise on quality because of prices.
For instance, if a child needs fruits and vegetables.
“You don’t have to buy avocados for them if you cannot afford them. Ugu is a very good vegetable, green, all of those things can be included in their diet every single day.

“For children, many times, prevention is better than cure and because they are just growing, their immune system is also growing. You need to focus on their nutrition because now is the stage to focus on healthy eating.”

She urged children to eat well, play well, and sleep well for a healthy life.
In her remarks, UAC Foods representative, Mrs. Lucky Goodness Akudo,  advised the children to take their education seriously and remain focused.
While urging them to speak out when they need assistance, Akudo said there was a need to catch the children young by creating a conducive environment for the children to grow.
“Parents should stay on guard because 98 per cent of training comes from parents, hence, the need for them to pay more attention to the children.
One of the teachers, Mr Dumnoye Adebayo Rilwani, who described the programme as impactful, said the children were taught about hand and personal hygiene as well as good nutrition.
He commended Amal Outreach for organising the program which witnessed among other things the distribution of snacks (gala), and supreme ice creams to the students.
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