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Camillo Gonsalves

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

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The Zero Hunger Trust Fund is being used to give food vouchers to 322 elderly persons and to provide school meals to 1,500 students.

That’s according to an update Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves presented to the media last week.

The fund is capitalised primarily from a tax on cellphone calls but has received support from businesses, including One St. Vincent Group, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves who donates one month of his salary every year, friendly governments and NGOs, including Dubai Cares

“The school year begins with the trust fund in excellent shape,” the finance minister said.

He said the Golden Years Nutrition Support Programme assists elderly persons who require some “nutrition security”.

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“They may be getting difficulty getting all they need nutritionally, for one reason or another.”

The finance minister said that the programme began in 2016 with boxes of groceries being given quarterly to 300 people in SVG.

The value of the box hovered around EC$200 and included basic dry goods and cleaning items, with fruits and vegetable being added later.

However, the act of populating the box had a cost in and of itself, Gonsalves said.

“And I thought that it might be better if we saved that cost and passed that money on to the people themselves who were in need.”

Therefore, the programme has moved from a $200 box of grocery to a $300 voucher redeemable at a number of local supermarkets.

The number of beneficiaries has moved from 300 to 322.

“So that is over $375,000 a year that we are providing to these elderly persons.”

He said the recipients got vouchers in May, will receive another around independence (Oct. 27), then another around Christmas.

The fund is training 45 young persons: 17 in computer repairs, 15 in graphic design, and 13 in cosmetology.

“We have trained 177 people so far in the Zero Hunger Trust Fund. In food preparation, bartending, culinary arts, auto mechanics, computer repairs, graphic design, electrical wiring, plumbing, basic refrigeration.”

He said that after training the persons, the fund places them with employers and pays the first six months of their salary.

“And the hope is after they have been working that the employer will see their benefit now they will be experienced and they would be taken on as full-time [workers],” Gonsalves told the media.

“I don’t have the data here as to how many people have been taken on full-time, but I know, anecdotally, that quite a number of people have been. So we have gone from the 322 elderly people to 177 young people.”

He said the fund also includes an adopt-a-classroom programme under which 12 primary schools are funded, namely Rose Hall Government, Barrouallie Anglican, Clare Valley Gov’t, Calliaqua Anglican, Lauders Primary, Fancy Government, Chateaubelair Methodist, Barrouallie Government, Gomea Methodist, Fair Hall Primary, Sandy Bay Government, Mayreau Government.

He said the children in those classrooms that have been adopted get all their books paid for by the Zero Hunger Trust Fund and a cash donation of EC$350 to buy uniforms and bags.

“And they get vision testing,” he said, adding that 57 of the students who were tested were found to need glasses.

“These are children who are in the classroom and are having difficulties and maybe not knowing why,” Gonsalves further said, adding that the fund is purchasing glasses for these students.

Gonsalves said the fund is paying for the school feeding programme in the school where the Adopt-a-School programme is being run.

“And all of the children at the schools can eat for free at the school feeding programme,” he said, adding that just over 1,500 of 2,100 children that were taking advantage of the school feeding programme are being fed by the fund.

The finance minister said the fund is also rehabilitating the kitchens in 10 schools, namely Park Hill Government, Pamenos Burke Primary, Stubbs Primary, Biabou Methodist, Kingstown Prep, Cane End Government, Lodge Village Government, Questelles Primary, Lowmans Leeward Anglican and Fitz Hughes Primary.

He said some of the upgrades have already taken place at other schools, including the construction of lunch rooms, while others involved procuring new pots and pans, fridges.

“It’s tremendous work. They have recruited and trained nutritionists, they have recruited and trained and paid for teachers to improve basic literacy and numeracy at those schools as well. And I wanted to highlight, if only in a cursory manner, some of the wonderful work that is being done by the Zero Hunger Trust Fund,” Gonsalves said.

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4 replies on “Minister updates on spending of Zero Hunger funds”

  1. Besides what the government claim to be doing there are hundreds receiving food on other programs, without which the recipients would die.

    What, happens to the school youth at weekends, and during school holiday periods, who feeds them? They go hungry and get themselves into trouble, adding to the crime rate.

    SALVATION ARMY FEEDING PROGRAM
    60 to 100 meals daily:
    The Salvation Army provides daily meals to poor school students at a cost to the student of 50 cents to one dollar for a good meal. No student has ever turned away for lack of money, no money and you still get fed.
    On a daily basis, about 60 children receive a hot, cooked lunch, prepared at the Army’s kitchen, located at its Melville Street headquarters in Kingstown.
    10 to 20 daily:
    They also give out food all day long to callers who do not have food or money, dry and canned foods to take home.

    THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF KINGSTOWN ‘LOAVES AND FISHES’ SOUP KITCHEN
    25 to 50 daily:
    The “soup kitchen,” feeding free poor persons, irrespective of religion.

    MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, NATIONAL RECONCILIATION, ECCLESIASTICAL AFFAIRS, AND INFORMATION
    Around 2000 daily:
    There is a school feeding program in SVG implemented by the Ministry of Education. It consists of food delivery to primary and preschools, which seeks to prevent malnutrition among vulnerable students from vulnerable families.

    UNICEF REPORT
    In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and a major hurricane and severe drought in 2010. Despite recent improvements in tourism, high unemployment and poverty persist.
    Saint Vincent has a school feeding programme benefiting 60 percent of student population targeting pupils of low socio-economic background and those who are nutritionally vulnerable.

    UNESCO REPORT
    In 2015, all primary schools had a school feeding programme that provides daily meals to students whose parents cannot afford to supply them with such meals.
    In addition to meals, some children from the vulnerable background are provided with school books and school uniforms by the Ministry of Social Development to ease the burden off poor parents.

    Despite the propaganda from the Unity Labour Party Government, PM Gonsalves, his boy, and his dynasty, hunger is still a real problem in SVG.

    There are many families with young children where no adult in the house is working, adults and children are going hungry.

    Failure by the ULP to create work for the citizens is a disgraceful fact in 2018. Work for the citizens so as they can provide for their families is more important than feeding programs.

    Paying for feeding programs is evidence that the government has failed the people and failed the working man.

    1. Thank You for the very good information. It cannot be denied. The country is in a very bad condition and all this “fake news” is not going to make anything better. I have met so very many people that have virtually no income. They live without current and they have children in school. At the same time most of them do not really want to work. I cannot figure that out. It seems they are looking only for easy money, in all its’ forms: Money Transfers from overseas, Charity, Prostitution, Theft,…?…
      How did we get here and how do we correct it?

      1. Beverley when people are encouraged by the comrades policies not to work because no work available and paid handouts, they eventually do not want to work, do not know how to work and breed children that never work as well.

    2. Peter Binose, your comment that, “Failure by the ULP to create work for the citizens is a disgraceful fact in 2018” is right out of Karl Marx’s playbook, which you have repeatedly rejected.

      The job of government is not to create phony jobs by borrowing money but to put in place policies which would maximize the chances of the private sector to flourish, in the process creating more jobs not because entrepreneurs want to but because their growth demands more workers.

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