GOVERNMENT has finally decided to divest its interest in Nutrition Products Limited (NPL), the company which produces meals for primary school students.
"It's not the intention of the Ministry of Education to continue much longer with Nutrition Products Limited. It is always the intention that, that operation should have been divested. I would want to put the House on notice that we have started the process of looking into how best we could divest it," Education Minister Andrew Holness told Parliament on Tuesday.
The education minister, in providing answers to questions raised by the Opposition's Central Kingston Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites about the School Feeding Programme, said it would be left up to the persons who took control of the entity to decide "what to do with it" in the end.
"But we have to at this time look at the efficiency of the operation because the capital investment that is required certainly will not be within the budget of the Ministry of Education any time soon. So we have made the decision internally and we have started the process of seeking to divest the operation," he added.
Holness, in 2008, told Parliament that the Government was not only considering the privatisation of NPL but was also looking at the introduction of new products to improve the nutrition of students.
Preparation of school lunches dates back to 1926 when it was financed by a group of charitable persons within the Corporate Area. In 1976, the Ministry of Education, with assistance from the USAID PL 480m Programme, introduced the patty/milk programme, and Nutrition Products was charged with preparing these lunches for children in the Corporate Area.
The patty/milk programme was replaced by the nutribun/milk programme in 1984 and expanded to feed students in basic, infant, primary and all-age schools in the Corporate Area, St Catherine, St Thomas, Trelawny, St Ann, St James and Manchester.
The ministry continues to operate two school-feeding programmes -- the nutrition and milk/drink programme and the traditional cooked lunch programme. NPL is largely responsible for the nutribun programme which covers 136,000 students. Students are asked to make a $2 contribution but are not denied if they cannot forward the sum.