Need to cut cost of food for schools

Nyabisase Mixed Secondary School

Nyabisase Mixed Secondary School students in Kisii County having their lunch at the institution.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Global food prices are at an all-time high with severe impacts on many developing countries, Kenya included. It is hoped the extreme price boom will be short-lived. Experts attribute the situation to supply chain disruptions and climate change.

Other ingredients of the recipe for food inflation are increased transportation costs and global unrest. The Covid-19 pandemic and other global events have worldwide consequences for economies, including food prices.

The food prices have affected schools adversely. The most affected are boarding schools; apart from the high cost of food, there are electricity and fuel costs as well. Day schools are also affected as they charge fees for lunch. High commodity costs don’t just affect food items but also other operations.

Schools are also indirectly affected by increased expenditure on food as it impairs households’ ability to bear the direct cost of education, such as tuition fees and purchasing books and uniforms. Furthermore, the higher cost of food limits the purchasing power of schools, hence impacting on students’ nutrition.

Research has shown that school food choices are beneficial for better academic outcomes and the overall health of students. Tremendous increase in food prices may threaten the status of food security of the poor and vulnerable, leading to dropouts. So what can be done?

First and more fundamental is for school managers to exercise prudent financial management in their schools, which is their key responsibility. That entails school managers carrying out the proper allocation of finances to various vote heads as per the budget to avoid wastage.

Secondly, though faced with limited resources, the government can increase capitation in the short term and rescind it when the situation stabilises. Thirdly, counties should take the lead role in enhancing nutrition in early childhood centres. Lastly, schools should buy food during harvesting, when it is relatively cheap.

Dr Kapkiai, PhD, is a lecturer in the school of Education and Human Resource development at Kisii University. [email protected].