At the National Council of Provinces, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo along with the Gauteng education departments appeared before the council’s education and recreation select committee.
The departments were quizzed about their matric results, the school nutrition programme and learner and teacher support material.
The provincial education department officials said scores of schools had inappropriate infrastructure to store and prepare food for the school nutrition programme, which has been allocated R6.8billion for this financial year.
Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the only problem his department had with the school nutrition programme, which feeds 1.3 million children, was the menu.
“The problem is when we serve soya, the majority of learners don’t eat, and that plays a key importance in the menu.
"The day we serve soya, the returns are huge,” Panyaza said.
Despite curry being added to the soya-prepared food, that “creative method” does not work.
“The reality is soya is not something that our children are excited with,” Panyaza said.
“We raised it with the national department. We are hopeful they will assist us,” he said.
Lesufi also said another problem was that the majority of learners did not eat on Fridays, and cited social pressure as a contributing factor.
He said they were inundated by approaches from people wanting to introduce their products - energy drinks or supplementary food - as part of the school menu.
“We normally refer those people to the national department,” he told the select committee.
KZN MEC Mthandeni Dlungwana said they were dealing with the issue of schools that have appropriate infrastructure such as kitchens.
“We have this year gone out to get appropriate utensils and other material required to ensure the handling of food is appropriate. We believe it is to go a long way,” Dlungwana said.
The province currently feeds 2.3million learners at 5272 schools.
A KZN presentation circulated in the meeting showed that cooking utensils, protective clothing and gas stoves would be bought in the 2018/19 financial year.
“In March 2018, the department requested a deviation from the national school nutrition programme business plan 2017/18,” the report said.
The Western Cape, which has 474828 learners on the programme, also said schools do not have infrastructure such as storage facilities for food supplied and refrigerators to store perishable food.
“The lack of these facilities poses a problem. Typically, food is stored in the kitchen cupboards provided with the mobile kitchens,” read a presentation circulated at the meeting.
“Very few schools have storage facilities. This is a problem as storage is not prioritised due to budgetary constraints,” read the Western Cape presentation.
The province said it received R2.4m for kitchen equipment.
The Limpopo Education Department feeds 1.6million learners.
“We still have serious challenges in terms of storage facilities at our schools and food preparation areas,” head of department Beauty Mutheiwana said.
Mutheiwana said they have conducted an assessment for school infrastructure to address the backlogs, which would require R54billion to eradicate.
“When we build new schools, the designs are that they include a kitchenette and storage facilities,” she said.
Mutheiwana added that utensils were bought for three districts in the last financial year and two others would benefit in 2018/19.