National School Nutrition Programme in WC: WCED briefing

Education (WCPP)

30 August 2022
Chairperson: Ms D Baartman (DA)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Committee met with officials from the Western Cape Department  Education Department (WCED) to receive a briefing on implementing the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) in the province.

The Department explained that all schools in Quintiles 1 to 3 schools were included in the national feeding scheme. In addition, the national Department of Education had given the WCED permission to cover Quintile 4 schools located in poorer areas.

Members asked what could be done to include Quintiles 4 and 5 schools in the feeding scheme. They noted that, previously, students had been given expired foods and asked what could be done to prevent this from happening again. Could programmes be set in place to encourage food gardens at schools?

They asked for information about the service providers and questioned the repeated extension of their contracts. Was there a standardised menu for all schools? Were children with allergies and those who were vegetarian taken into consideration?

Members asked whether the Department could consider decentralising administration of the scheme to schools themselves.

The Department responded that significant additional funding would be required to bring Quintiles 4 and 5 schools into the feeding scheme. District officials and teachers monitored expiry dates to ensure that goods had a shelf life of six months or more.

The Committee was told that a process to issue new tenders for service providers was underway. However, if suitable providers could not be found, the existing contracts would have to be extended again.

The Department said it would provide the Committee with information from provinces that had decentralised administration of the feeding scheme to assess the pros and cons. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Members and officials from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

Mr Archie Lewis, Deputy Director-General: Institution Development and Coordination, WCED, told the Committee that the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was not new. It started in 1994. In 1994, school feeding was mandatory for primary and high schools in Quintiles 1 to 3. Later, a new quintile system was established and some schools were excluded from the feeding scheme. The national Department of Basic Education (DBE) had given the WCED  permission to cover the schools exempt from the feeding scheme. Almost all Quintile 4 schools were located in poor areas and the current economic conditions were worsening their situation. Feeding schemes in these schools were vital.

Ms Lindelwa Dlulemnyango-Sopotela, Director: School Nutrition Programme, WCED, made a presentation on the background of the scheme, its budget, its beneficiaries and the service providers. She outlined achievements of the NSNP and the challenges it faced.

 (See slide presentation).


Mr F Christians (ACDP) said Quintile 4 and 5 schools were not receiving feeding because it was not mandatory. How did one come to the decision to include some schools and not others when schemes were needed in schools that had been exempted from the NSNP? A while ago, there had been a media uproar about expired food given to pupils. Who would make sure that this would not happen again?

Was there a programme to encourage schools to have food gardens? Sometimes people felt ashamed to accept food from these schemes because they carried a stigma. Food gardens could change their perception and make them proud to eat what they have nurtured and grown.

Mr C Fry (DA) referred to slide 6. He said the percentages did not add up and would have to be amended. He asked for clarity on the division of funds – how much did each service provider get? A school feeding association in the Western Cape and a radio station had collaborated in raising R20 million for school feeding schemes. Why would this be necessary when the Department was providing money for this? How were funds monitored?

Mr K Sayed (ANC) referred to slide 8. Was there a standardised menu for all schools? Encounters with different schools had shown that certain schools had different menus from the rest. Did Quintile 1 to 3 schools have the same meals as Quintiles 4 to 5? What options were there for students with allergies and vegetarian students? Were more Quintile 4 schools applying for conditional grants and what processes did they need to follow?

Referring to Slide 9, for how many years had the Department contacted the service providers? Would a new tender be advertised? Could the details of board members of some of the service providers and their BEE status be shared with Members? How did local businesses situated close to school communities benefit?

Regarding slides 15 to 18, had any incidents of corruption been noticed or reported and what mechanisms were in place to prevent stealing groceries and equipment? Who was responsible for this task? Referring to slide 21, Mr Sayed asked the Department to explain their challenges in expanding the feeding scheme to Quintile 4 and 5 schools. How could the Committee help with this?

The Chairperson said that all schools did not need a standardised menu. However, was a standard template given to schools? How frequently were fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to schools? Would the Department consider expanding the scheme to Quintiles 4 and 5? Some learners in those quintiles did not come from families that could afford to send them lunch daily. Nutrition programme funds were based on the number of students in the school. Some principals were hesitant about letting the Department know the exact number of children in their schools. Could the WCED work out a formula to address this?

Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) asked if any consideration was given to Muslim learners in the feeding schemes and if the food was halal.


Mr Lewis responded to Mr Christians. Determining which schools to include in the programme was an easy decision – those in Quintiles 1 to 3 were accepted and schools that had previously benefited from the programme. The Department was trying to expand the programme, but this was difficult due to lack of funds.

In response to Mr Fry, the percentages on slide six had been amended. There were schools in the system that were using feeding schemes run by the private sector. Food was provided voluntarily to schools that were not part of the NSNP, hence raising the R20 million in the Western Cape.

In response to Mr Sayed, there were applications from schools in Quintiles 4 to 5, but it was difficult to include them because of a lack of funds. The only way to include these schools would be through provincial equitable share funding allocated to the feeding scheme that would enable it to feed all the learners in all the schools. If the quintile system was removed, this would level the playing field and encourage the DBE to feed as many learners as possible. The amount of money given to the service providers would be provided in writing.

Ms Dlulemnyango-Sopotela said that district officials were responsible for monitoring the schools daily. They checked expiry dates to ensure that the food must have six months or more of shelf life. One teacher in each school was nominated to assist the coordinators in ensuring that the food in the storeroom was good for the learners to eat. The numbers given by the schools were not accurate and this contributed to stockpiling.

Food gardeners were paid with funds from the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The gardens were integrated into the school curriculum. This was to encourage the learners to participate in the programme and take up agricultural studies.

Menus were standard and were determined by the conditions applied by the Division of Revenue Act. Some schools had an uncooked menu, such as sandwiches. Allergies in learners related mostly to fish, normally served with something else, such as lentils. This was what the scheme could afford.

 The contracts with the service providers started in 2016 and were to have expired in 2018. However, changes in the menu and challenges with the contracts led to their extension to September 2022. There was an open tender system. All were encouraged to apply, and not only local businesses were looked at. School governing boards should be aware of corruption within the system and the police must be informed.

The volunteer food handlers were trained in preparation of meals and hygiene. Fruit and vegetables were supplied once a week. Schools in Quintiles 4 to 5 benefitting from the programme were not funded; only the Western Cape and Gauteng could provide food to them.

The meat that had been added to the menu was chicken livers and this was provided by businesses with halal certificates. Calculation of funding in Quintiles 4 and 5 was based on 40 percent of the number of pupils. There were not enough funds to aid all schools. Certain schools only qualified for 40 percent.

Mr M Kama (ANC) asked for clarity on stockpiling of food. What was being done to address this?

Mr Sayed asked how many times the contracts had been extended. What were the chances that the contracts might be extended again after they expired in September?

The Chairperson referred to the open tendering system. Instead of having a centralised tendering system, perhaps schools could purchase their own food. This could be cost-effective as compliance costs were high. It would allow schools to manage the food they purchase and allow them to buy from local stores, farmers and service providers. Could there be a rotation of service providers? The Department could also encourage the idea of a one-school-one-garden initiative. This would provide learners with fresh fruit and vegetables and boost agricultural activity in schools.

Mr Lewis responded to Mr Kama. By law, the Department had to give the schools in Quintiles 1 to 3 food for all their learners, even those that did not eat the meals. Some schools did not give the Department an honest number of how many learners ate the food and how many did not. This was one of the reasons for surplus stocks and food expiring. Field officials had been instructed to monitor these schools. 

In response to the Chairperson, he said some provinces used a decentralised model where the money was given to district officers to handle provisioning. Investigations should take place to determine how this model was operating. The best model was to give the money directly to the schools, but this would not happen. For now, the centralised model was the way to go despite it not being the best.

Ms Dlulemnyango-Sopotela said that when school numbers increased or decreased, a verification form must be filled out for the Department to know how many learners were to be fed. When there was stockpiling, the excess food was given to Quintiles 4 and 5 schools.

The service providers’  tender was awarded in 2016. The contracts expired in 2018 and were extended for two years. They expired in 2020 and were extended for another two years. The supply chain management process would be finalised soon. Both the centralised and decentralised models had merits and demerits. The centralised model required a lot of officials for monitoring. Schools must be capable of managing their own funds. Rotation of service providers would be considered. There were not enough funds to aid school gardening initiatives.

Mr Kama said that whatever system was set in place in the future, it had to prioritise learners in disadvantaged schools and provide them with meals. There would still be inflated numbers, whether it was a centralised or decentralised system. If money was given directly to schools, they would ask for more funds than needed, which would contribute to stockpiling and food expiring.

Mr Sayed asked if the service providers tender had not been awarded yet, what the chances were of it being renewed. When was the process started and how long did it usually take? How much was awarded per service provider?

The Chairperson said that food security was needed in the country. It did not make sense to cut funding for food gardens. What were the challenges of the decentralised model? Could the Department carry out a pilot project to determine schools that were ready for decentralisation of procurement?

Mr Lewis said running a pilot was a good idea. Funding for it would have to be discussed with National Treasury. 

Ms Dlulemnyango-Sopotela said both models had merits, but the provinces that were transferring funds directly to schools were currently having problems with accountability and reporting. The schools did not always meet the deadlines of the DBE. In some schools, the decentralised model worked well because the principals were very good at handling the funds. The Department itself needed to strengthen its monitoring and evaluation.

Mr Lewis told Mr Sayed that if the Department had not completed its tendering process to find suitable service providers, then the contracts of the current providers would have to be extended again. 

The Chairperson thanked the Department for their work and released them from the meeting.


Mr Sayed said that WCED needed to find a way to assist Quintiles 4 and 5 schools. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts needed to investigate the awarding of contracts urgently. 

The Chairperson said a formula was needed for assisting Quintiles 4 and 5 schools.

More information was needed before asking for an investigation into the contracts. If there was a problem, then only could the investigation commence. The time frame given to the Department to provide information was two weeks.

Mr Sayed said he wanted to know the challenges and the criteria for the tendering process.

The Chairperson said that there should be an oversight visit to the district offices to understand the challenges in the food logistics. The WCED needed to send the Committee a list of challenges that provinces with decentralised models faced. There needed to be further discussion on the framework agreement and consideration of the pilot decentralisation project. It should focus on schools that were managed well. It would serve as an incentive to schools that were doing well and would provide the Committee with more data on this issue. The Committee agreed.

The DBE needed to review the conditional grant conditions to include food gardens. Members agreed.

The Chairperson said the model a province uses should be its choice and conditional grant funds should be provided. The national conditional grant had specific conditions attached to it which might cause issues in accessing funds in future. The conditional grant criteria should be forwarded to the Members.

The Committee needed an engagement with the DBE about the possibility of reviewing the quintile system and its impact on the Western Cape Province.

Mr Sayed said that the public was anxious about places for their children at schools. The Department was delaying and not being clear on this. A meeting needed to be scheduled with the Department on this matter. The Chairperson said that requests from the public regarding school matters should be sent to the Minister.

She thanked the Members and said that the Committee must ensure that funding from the feeding scheme benefited as many learners as possible.

The meeting was adjourned.



No related


Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: