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Parents protest against price of lunch at St James school

But some confess that former operators allowed monthly credit

BY HORACE HINES AND MARK CUMMINGS Observer staff reporters

Tuesday, September 02, 2014    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Scores of irate parents of students who attend the Barracks Road Primary School in Montego Bay yesterday demonstrated on the school compound over the high price of items sold by the canteen.

"... It (canteen) has been taken over by a new company and one box food is now $230, one patty for $130, and one bag juice for $30. "They (concessionaire) must go and if they don't, the principal must go," one disgruntled parent said.

The parents complained bitterly that the box lunches and snacks that were previously provided by some nine vendors who were displaced by the school's administration were more affordable than that of the new concessionaire.

"Two hundred and sixty dollars for a lunch at a primary school, how can that be?" one woman asked.

Principal Alphanso Jones said, however, that if the students cannot afford to purchase meals from the new concessionaire they have viable options.

He cited the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) arrangement and the Ministry of Education's school feeding programme.

"The reality is that no child is compelled to purchase at the highest level. We want them to learn to juggle with options," Jones said.

"It's an initiative that has been taken by the board to invite outside concessionaire to operate. This came against the background of the need for standardisation in keeping with our school improvement plan that is to have a reputable and experienced organisation providing meals," said Jones.

The principal explained that the school's board took the decision to sever ties with the nine vendors because of a myriad of reasons, including hygiene and the sale of other items outside of the food which they were permitted to sell.

"They were mandated to provide only some kinds of food items but after a while we saw that they veered from what they were expected to be selling. They sold many things that were not edible; children would end up at times buying all type of toys and we had to contend with balloons, big balls and toy guns...," the principal explained.

One of the protesters told the Jamaica Observer that she preferred the previous vendors because at times when they have no money they were allowed to credit food for their children.

"We want back the vendors them because we could get trust (credit) from them. Them credit us until month end and so on," said a disgruntled mother.

Regional director at the Ministry of Education Region Four Hillary Foster said she was awaiting a report from an officer assigned to investigate the matter before she could comment.

Meanwhile, Foster said that the start of the new school year in Region Four, which encompasses the parishes of St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, went off to a fairly good start with no major challenges.

"It was smooth for the most part," Foster told the Observer.

"We had no water and furniture issues. Infact, we have been working from mid-August to solve the water issues that were facing schools in the region."

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