The 'Adopt a Classroom' progarm, which was officially launched on 29th July, signals the official start of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund. Minister of Economic Planning, Hon. Camillo Gonsalves said that 29th July was a happy day for his ministry, as it was able to roll out the first program of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund.
Addressing parents and children at the symbolic handing over ceremony of cash grants, held at the Foreign Affairs conference room, Minister Gonsalves said that he wanted to remind people of Prime Minister Gonsalves’ promise during the election campaign, of his plans to eradicate hunger by the year 2020, and to ensure that no Vincentian went to bed hungry at nights.
He stated that, because of that promise, Cabinet took a decision to establish the Zero Hunger Trust Fund, which will design programs to meet this goal. “This trust fund that we created and we passed a law to create, which includes a board, was created to spearhead this effort in St.Vincent and the Grenadines to make sure nobody goes to bed hungry at nights,that is the zero hunger Trust Fund.
Minister Gonsalves, who also has the portfolio of Sustainable Development, said that one of the things the law does is "add a little tax on cell phone calls, every time you make a call, some of that money is diverted to the Zero Hunger Trust Fund, and we use that money to fulfill the promise that the Prime Minister made,” he explained.
He said that when they started looking at zero hunger, a lot of persons thought that the government was just going to come and get a whole set of food and give it to people, “but you know what they say, if you teach a man to fish it is a lot better than giving him a fish”.
He also said that it was decided that there would be within the zero hunger trust fund a whole set of different programs to deal with poverty, hunger and skills training; “because if you deal with poverty, you dealing with hunger”. "Have targeted programs, look at the number of persons who are indigent in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 persons."
He said that officials looked at data to see where there were larger incidences of poverty, and north Leeward and Windward, among other areas, were identified as areas where government needed to focus on. “A lot of these areas are areas the government is trying to rapidly lift out of poverty”.
"This program will deal with fees that are necessary, registration and the like, pay for books for students, buy a book bag, provide the resources for you to pay for the uniform and the shoes, and improved nutrition options,” outlined the Minister. He disclosed that a reading specialist would be attached to the program to ensure that the children in these early years come out of Kindergarten as good readers, “because reading is fundamental to your later progress educationally".
Seven primary schools from the areas of Sandy Bay, Fancy, Fair Hall, Chateaubelair and Barrouallie have been selected.
The parents received a cash grant of $260.00, with an additional $20.00 given as reimbursement for transportation, giving a total of $280.00. Books have already been purchased and would be distributed through the relevant government department. Meals would also be provided. One hundred and ninety (190) Kindergarten students would benefit from this program.