“Significant” amount of lunch vouchers uncollected, says Lloyd

“Significant” amount of lunch vouchers uncollected, says Lloyd
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd (file photo)

Ministry will redistribute again sometime next week in hopes of wider participation

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A “significant number” of parents whose children participate in the National Lunch Programme did not collect lunch vouchers on Wednesday, according to Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd.

Lloyd told Eyewitness News the low turnout has prompted the government to consider making another day available for collection in exception to the COVID-19 emergency orders.

Around 4,000 students take part in the program.

“If they are not able to provide themselves during the lunch day, when school is in, it is likely that they are not able to provide for themselves when school is out,” Lloyd said.

“Parents, we are asking you to please come and collect these vouchers, so their children can get something to eat.”

While Lloyd was unable to say how many vouchers were collected, he expressed concern about the uncollected vouchers, which were “significant enough that it moves us to organize a second day for this distribution”.

The minister pointed out these students and their families have been vetted for the program and identified as in need of financial assistance.

“I don’t know the exact percentage, but it appears as if there were a number of parents, guardians who did not choose to collect those vouchers, which is a concern to us because the students who are on the lunch program are students who have been vetted or their families have been vetted by Social Services, and Social Services — after rigorous scrutiny and evaluation — would have determined that these students are in need of support, financial support,” Lloyd said.

“So, if those parents, guardians, did not come to collect those vouchers, then the question has to be what is happening with those students?

“These are students who would not have been capable of providing for themselves at school — meaning lunch. So, what is happening and that is a concern to us. And, as a result we are choosing now — we are having a meeting right now — to determine which day we should have a second follow-up distribution. I think that we may be choosing Monday.”

Lloyd said the government is keen to get the vouchers in the hands of parents and encouraged them to come in at the next available date.

He advised that instead of collection at the various schools, parents and guardians will be able to collect vouchers from the Ministry of Education where receiving facilities will be established.

After the first case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in The Bahamas, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced last Sunday that all schools will close for a month, in addition to measures to prevent public gatherings and social activities.

As more cases were confirmed and the government feared the public was not taking the public health threat seriously enough, a “shelter in place” 24-hour curfew replaced the mandatory nightly curfew from 9 pm to 5 am.

The measures will remain in place until March 31.

An exception to the emergency order was made yesterday (Wednesday) to allow students on the National Lunch Programme to collect meal vouchers between 9 am and noon.

“Don’t forgot now, school isn’t going to open until April 14, so from this past Tuesday is clearly coming on three weeks, and that’s a concern to us,” Lloyd noted.

“I really want our parents to be very serious about this.

“We have put the announcements over all the media. It’s non-stop, and we have insisted on it being non-stop.

“We are spending a lot of money on public announcements out there. We are sending messages out there over WhatsApp, and we are asking people out there to share it through their groups.