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The problem with SA’s school feeding scheme 

South Africa

Maverick Citizen Letter to the Editor

The problem with SA’s school feeding scheme 

File photo: Mpepule Primary School pupils in Limpopo line up for food. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Sandile Ndlovu)

‘I urge the government and business people to start thinking about our well-being and provide good food for us.’

Khuthalo Mahlangu, a Grade 5 learner in Tembisa

In many schools, most children depend on a meal they receive a day from the school feeding programme, meals which I think don’t have the right nutrition. 

When I was much younger we were very poor, so my older sister would get food parcels from her school, she would bring us some dry peas to eat during supper. My mother would inspect each and every pea before she would cook them. One day she saw what looked like small black flying insects. 

I did a little research using my brother’s laptop and I found that those insects are called pea weevils.

The internet said these weevils were damaging to the pea crop and made it unfit for sale. But I guess the Department of Basic Education or the school bought that crop anyway.

I wonder, if my mother hadn’t inspected those peas, what would have happened to us as I am not sure if they are poisonous or not. 

Another thing that made me see that the food we get from the feeding scheme programme is not safe to eat is when a learner at my school started to vomit after eating food.

After eating tinned fish and rice, she ran to the toilet feeling nausea. The whole week she didn’t come to school, and when she came back, she was made to stop eating from the feeding scheme. Our teacher would bring her lunchbox or fruits for lunch.

But what about the other children who may fall sick from eating the food? Why didn’t the school change the supplier as her being sick shows that there was something wrong with the food?

You will find many stories like this one, many media reports that reveal how some children died after eating food at schools. Was the food from the feeding scheme contaminated or had it expired? You will read these stories in the newspapers and you won’t do anything – but there is something that you can do. You can start by raising the quality of the food that the government provides as a feeding scheme during parents’ meetings. You can ask the government minister if they would eat the type of food that we are expected to eat at schools. The kind that makes us sick. 

Most of the children who are part of the feeding scheme programme don’t have a choice as they are forced by the situation to eat the food that makes them sick. These ministers eat food without worrying if they may get sick from the food they eat as it is safe and nutritious while millions of parents can’t afford to give their children nutritious food which leads to malnutrition.     

I pray that one day we will eat fruits, yogurt, vegetables and meat like children I see on the TV screen. We can’t continue to eat tinned fish, peas, beans and samp or pap every day just because we are poor. I believe that our government can afford to give us the right food to eat that will build our bodies and help us concentrate in class. 

I urge the government and business people to start thinking about our well-being and provide good food for us.

I am an 11-year-old girl who loves writing about issues that affect me and other young children like me. Often we are not given the opportunity to talk because we are small but we have a voice too. I am in Grade 5. I would like to become an astronaut and a TV host when I grow up. DM/MC

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