Need to improve feeding programme in schools

Our students in boarding schools are not eating the right or good food. This is according to the Royal Audit Authority’s (RAA) latest performance report on the school-feeding programme in 16 schools.

There is lack of standard dietary requirement prescribed for students and schools are unable to ensure required nutrient intake. We have not forgotten the case in Orong Higher Secondary School in Samdrupjongkhar where two students died due to nutrition deficiency. Five students from the same schools had to be sent to Guwahati in Assam, India for medical tests related to nutritional deficiency.

The food prepared in visited schools was found unpalatable and unappetizing, discouraging students to eat the right portion, resulting in fewer intakes of nutrients. According to national nutrition survey, dietary intake is poor especially in rural areas where almost 27.3 percent of pregnant women and 31.3 percent adolescent girls are anaemic. Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk said that 90 percent of the children do not receive required nutrition.

RAA has recommended the education ministry to develop a minimum dietary requirement standard for students besides instituting a strong monitoring and inspection mechanism to ensure that all schools comply with the standard. There is a need to employ an effective mechanism for monitoring nutritional status. As yet, it is difficult for teachers to coordinate and take care of fresh feeding items for a large number of students. Periphery neuropathy or hidden hunger could affect learning abilities of students.

It has also been found that food items supplied to schools are infested or damaged. Although schools are required to inspect damage and infestations, this is not happening. Such things happen because of lack of capacity or means to check the quality of food commodities delivered. This calls for a strong quality control system in school, which will require standardising storage facilities.

Between July 2014 and December 2015, a total of 36.4MT of food items in schools were found damaged.

Agricultural diversification is seen as critically important to improve nutrition and better health among school children. And there are interventions worked out.

What is important is that we establish nationally-owned, sustainable school meals programme as WFP is phasing out their programme from Bhutanese schools.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    There are 110 feeding schools in the country and the performance report by RAA has covered a sample size of 16 schools if I am not wrong. On the other news post of 16th June of 2017, I was reading about the challenges and issues faced by the schools under the feeding programme and also the recommendations suggested in the performance report.

    The absence of a systematic monitoring system is felt and it’s suggested that BAFRA should be involved as an independent assessor for maintaining quality by the education departments. Even the inefficiencies in the supply chain for the school feeding programme are pointed out and there has been a suggestion to improve the menus and introduce variety with taste and nutritional values.

    It’s good to know that the performance report doesn’t suggest any indicative linkages between quality of food and academic performance of the students to be established by the education ministry through further studies. But we all want that our school students are eating healthy and even tasty food.

    May be it’s high time for a suggestion to involve the health departments as well. They can provide the expert nutritionists if needed and also establish regular monitoring of student’s health for any lack of nutrition or related food and drink deficiencies. At times, a few pills can be more effective than an entire meal for all the nutritional values demanded by the body and mind.

    Poor storage facilities and wastage of food items under storage has been indicated. May be we are looking at a possibility of implementing Just in Time inventory management in near future. The school authorities may need specialised professional help for something like that if becomes a realistic scene.

    Here, even privatisation or private partnerships can be considered for meeting the professional needs with the food supply chain. A few chains can be altered through privatisation. Even schools and education departments can have their own dedicated full time research teams just to keep the system optimised for the future when WFP eventually phases out their programme from the Bhutanese schools.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply