MoAF proposes Nu 3.1bn on school and hospital feeding program

With the change in the School Feeding Program (SFP) to National School Feeding Program (NSFP), the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MoAF) has proposed Nu 3.1bn to school and hospital feeding program (SHFP) to supply the schools and the hospitals with domestically produced quality food.

MoAF has developed strategies for schools and hospitals including livestock products, fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet.

According to the agriculture ministry, this initiative is also expected to enhance domestic production by way of providing assured markets for the farmers. “The MoAF shall lead the feeding program to ensure that domestically produced foods are supplied to the schools and hospitals,” a press release from MoAF stated.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said domestically produced livestock products, fruits and vegetables are safe, socially acceptable, economically sound, and environmentally benign.  “The Program shall include other institutions like the Armed Forces and the Dratshangs in the near future. This will have significant impact in the Ministry’s endeavors in ensuring food and nutrition security for the Bhutanese population.”

He added that with this program, MoAF is planning to bring farmers who stay nearby schools to supply vegetables to schools benefitting farmers too. “Whole season supply from our farmers will be bit challenging and we need to import from other countries if our farmers are not able to supply.”

Meanwhile, this program is expected to employ about 4,000 youths in the various State Owned Enterprises, Farmer Groups and Co-operatives within five years.

Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering issued a Government Executive Order for the school and hospital feeding program (SHFP). The Executive Order was pursued by the Ministry to supersede Procurement Rules and Regulation to allow local farmers groups, individual farmers, agriculture cooperatives, Farm Mechanization Corporation Limited (FMCL) and Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited (BLDCL) to negotiate and supply farm produces to schools and hospitals without having to participate in open procurement bidding.

“This lays down an opportunity in the Ministry’s effort to fulfil the food requirement in the schools and the hospitals with an acceptable balanced diet through the supply of domestically produced quality food,” said Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor.

Lyonpo said that individual farmers, farmer groups and agriculture cooperatives will receive preferential treatment in supplying their produces to the schools and hospitals. FMCL and BLDCL will supplement produces whenever supplies from these agencies run short.

“Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) will undertake procurement (buy-back) from the farmers/cooperatives and SoEs and distribute the resources to schools and hospitals wherever direct connections between the supplier and the demand is not possible.”

According to the MoAF, the FCBL will also continue to import and supplement the supply/distribution of all food resources that is locally not available. The DAMC will facilitate in marketing connectivity and price negotiations between the supplier and recipient agencies.

Till now, there are about 78, 953 students in 263 schools to be covered under the SFP. State owned enterprises like the FMCL and the BLDCL are tasked to produce and mobilize local produces to meet the demand of the schools and the hospitals.

The new proposed stipend per student per month for two meal scheme and Nu 915 for the one meal scheme. The total investment cost for this program is estimated at Nu 3.22bn including the cost of Nu 1.863bn recurrent expenditure and Nu 1.359 bn in capital investments.

MoAF found that short term hunger and malnourishment are known to occur in most schools and pesticide and chemical residues over the permissible limits were found in poor quality imported fruits and vegetables and its consumption by students represent a major cause of morbidity, mortality, poor classroom performance and dropout among school aged children.

The FCB will be responsible for procurement and distribution of all supplies for the schools and the hospitals. FCBL will also organize imports for those products which are not available locally.

According to the MoAF, in 2018, there were a total of 166, 989 students, including 11,348 students in private schools of which 74, 300 students were covered under the school feeding program and 40, 981 were in boarding schools with three meals served, while 13, 371 students were provided two meals under WFP support and 19, 848 students received one meal a day in the school program.

A total of 13, 371 additional students will have to be covered under the national feeding program with the withdrawal of WFP support.

MoAF stated that for the academic year 2019, there are about 78, 953 students being covered under the National School Feeding Program with at least a meal a day.

The MoAF initiated the School Linking Program (SLP) during the 10th FYP and towards end of 10 FYP.  The MoAF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE) piloted two schools of Mongar Higher Secondary School and Bumthang Higher Secondary School for supply of local produce.

pic courtesy: Menjong Foundation

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu