The School Feeding Caterers Association has said that with immediate effect, provision of meals to the beneficiaries has stopped, due to the lack of funds.

According to the aggrieved caterers, government has failed to increase the grants allocated to them to run the programme.

The caterers want the feeding fee increased from the current 97 pesewas per pupil to 3 cedis.

Speaking in an interview with Ayisha Ibrahim on News Desk on Monday, the President of the Caterers Association, Juliana Cudjoe voiced her frustrations and called on government to speedily address the problem.

“We are not pushing the government. We are just pleading with the government to increase our money. That’s all”, she stated.

As of now, the Association is holding itself in readiness to meet with government to address its concerns.

But responding to why the Association has refused to cook for the pupils, pending the outcome of the meeting, Juliana Cudjoe said, “Most of the caterers don’t have money, and today, we’re going to meet them at the Secretariat. So whatever comes from there, we will let you know. We don’t have a choice”.

She added, “the prices of items have been increased, so when we are paid, we use the balance to offset our arrears. Then we’re left with nothing to cook. Today we have nothing to do, we have nothing to cook. We don’t have money. So we are going to meet them. It is not that we are punishing the kids. We don’t have money”.

Reacting to these concerns, the Public Relations Officer of the School Feeding Secretariat, Siibi Alpha expressed surprise at the development.

“This has come to us as a shock. Because we knew that, at least they’ll go and cook all along. So if they’re telling us that, that’s their stance that they’ll not go and cook, Management will also take a decision on what to do next in terms of at least trying to convince them to rescind their decision, and then trying to put contingency measures to also avert the [situation]”, he said.

Earlier, Chairperson of the Association, Juliana Cudjoe, told JoyNews that they are making huge losses from cooking hot meals for the children with the current amount paid as grant.

According to her, they have literally been doing magic to sustain their businesses.

“We are not going to cook until we hear something from them. We need our payment, and we want an increment too. So, we will not cook on Monday”, she said.

Meanwhile, the School Feeding Secretariat has promised to look into their concerns and has invited the leadership of the Association to a meeting on Monday.

“They have made their demands. So, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the School Feeding Management will develop a comprehensive statement on that”.

This new development comes after the Management of the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) announced last week that the resumption of cooking services in all beneficiary schools will begin on May 16.

A notice issued on May 9, added that the caterers would be paid the third term of the 2021 academic year and other arrears in due course.

Addressing Parliament on March 2, 2022, the caretaker Gender Minister, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, announced the suspension of the Programme to allow debts owed to caterers to be cleared.

“Mr. Speaker, currently the expansion of the programme is on hold. However, we are clearing all arrears of caterers and putting measures to ensure effective and efficient service delivery to all beneficiary schools and the caterers.

We are also putting in place a management information system to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the system. We shall surely inform this august House when we are ready to expand the programme to cover additional schools”, she said.

In December last year, the Minister assured that arrears owed the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) caterers would soon be settled.

She noted that all the necessary data and figures had been worked on and submitted to the Controller and Accountant General for the release of funds to pay the caterers.

Mrs. Dapaah said this when answering questions at the Ministry of Gender’s turn at the Meet the Press series in Accra on December 5, 2021.

“When it comes to the School Feeding payment – we have the last lot of arrears to pay. However, we know the figure we’ve put in, and it’s at the Controller … so we hope to get it very soon,” she noted.