The Grand Bahama aspect of the National Food Distribution Program was recently launched and Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, said that initiative is a government priority.
The program, mandated by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, has been established to provide food assistance for vulnerable Bahamians.
Some $1.4 million has been injected into the program.
“The prime minister indicated that food distribution was going to be a national priority for the government. After we had suffered Hurricane Dorian and after we have gone through COVID-19, the country would be severely challenged with respect to unemployment, and it was a national priority that we feed our citizens.
“The prime minister mandated that a national committee for food distribution be appointed. That was done. The prime minister also indicated that the national distribution committee would be responsible for putting in place food distribution programs, throughout The Bahamas. The committee reached out to Grand Bahama, we have formed a steering committee here in Grand Bahama to execute the prime minister’s mandate,” informed Thompson.
He added that the local Steering Committee comprises of a number of key stakeholders, representing a cross section of entities.
“We are very pleased that as a part of Grand Bahama’s Steering Committee, we have representatives from very key stakeholders, which is evidence of the fact that this is a joint program between the Government of The Bahamas and the private sector.
“We are very pleased that on the Steering Committee for Grand Bahama, we have the President of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, Ian Rolle; the President of the Chamber of Commerce (Greg LaRoda), which represents businesses throughout Grand Bahama; and we have the President of the Grand Bahama Christian Council (Rev. Robert Lockhart), which represents churches and also works very closely with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” the minister revealed.
The actual distribution of the vouchers will begin in short order. It is necessary though, for a structure to be out in place, and fairness and transparency are advocated.
“We are beginning the process of distributing vouchers in accordance with the National Program. This really is evidence of the government’s commitment to ensure that no resident, no Bahamian, no citizen, no person who resides in our country, goes hungry.
“We are very pleased that we will be beginning the process of food distribution. The National Committee has determined that the program will proceed and it has already been proceeding in New Providence and so, we are pleased that we are now commencing our portion here in Grand Bahama.
“One of the things that the prime minister indicated was that we wanted to create a national database of persons who are assisted and persons who are in need. There has been a national database that has been started. New Providence has started its database and Grand Bahama has also started its database. We will be launching Grand Bahama’s website as of next week and the website will be www.feedgrandbahama.com.”
Thompson noted that the first tranche of assistance was received by direct relief.
“We have a pledge by Buckyeye and a pledge by the Grand Bahama Port Authority. In addition to those private sector pledges, the Government of The Bahamas has also provided funding and will be consistently providing the necessary funding, and I dare say will be providing the majority of funding for this program.
“We also want to thank the food stores which are participating in this first tranche. We are very pleased that on board we have Sawyer’s Food Store, we have Abaco Markets Limited (AML) Foods (Solomon’s) and we have Express Food Mart. Persons will be able to redeem those vouchers at those individual food stores,” Thompson said.
He added that the government also wanted to ensure that there was transparency and accountability with respect to the program, both nationally and locally.
“We are very pleased that we have Ellison Delva, from Cates and Co., the accounting firm that will act as the administrators and financial advisors and accountants who will be receiving and doing all of the due diligence with respect to the funding for this program,” disclosed the minister.
During the first phase of the launch, Thompson noted that 735 vouchers would be distributed to various organizations, to place in the hands of residents that are in need of assistance.
Receiving the first round of voucher were The Salvation Army - 225; Reach Out Youth Organization - 225; Red Cross - 102 vouchers; Calvary Temple Church - 133 and Jubilee Cathedral - 50 vouchers.
Additional vouchers will be distributed and additional distribution points that will be provided with vouchers, will be announced in the near future, Thompson stated.