AMERICAN SAMOA SCHOOLS TO END USE OF SAMOA BANANAS

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (August 10, 1997 - Samoa News)---American Samoa's school lunch program will not use bananas imported from Samoa during the next school year, says Department of Education Director Dr. Laloulu Tagoilelagi.

Dr. Tagoilelagi made the announcement last week during a House Government Operation Committee hearing.

"Importing ripe bananas from Apia was my decision and no one else's," Dr. Tagoilelagi told Committee members. "The program was a trial test only for three months and it ended after the current school year."

Dr. Tagoilelagi told the committee that using ripe bananas on the menu was prompted by a meeting last March in San Francisco about school lunch nutrition.

Governor Tauese Sunia had asked him to attend that meeting, during which he was queried by federal officials about the quality of American Samoa students' nutrition, especially concerning vegetables and fruits. He was also asked if students in the Territory were provided with bread.

"After the meeting, we started looking at using bread and as many fruits, including ripe bananas, for our school lunches," he recalled. "That program began in April."

Dr. Tagoilelagi also stated that he asked school lunch program manager Eugene Palyo to order fruits, vegetables and other goods from local sources, including farmers.

The DOE Director also said that Chief of Staff Dr. Sili Sataua told him that there was someone from Apia with ripe bananas who could be useful to the school lunch program.

According to Dr. Tagoilelagi, the Department of Agriculture was consulted first before ordering imported bananas to see if the local farmers could accommodate the demand and Acting Director Peter Gurr said, "No."

Gurr also testified that local farmers cannot handle the demand for both green and ripe bananas.

Both Dr. Tagoilelagi and Palyo testified that the ripe banana shipments began in April, at the same time that Palyo ordered that no more green bananas should be used for the school lunch program because there was a lot of rice to be used.

It was also revealed during the hearing that the Apia bananas are shipped green into the Territory and they are stored for several days in a warehouse to ripen. Apparently, according to Palyo, a chemical to accelerate the ripening process is sprayed on the green bananas that then ripen within three to five days.

Several committee members pointed out that locally grown green bananas could easily be ordered and handled through the same ripening process as that implemented for Apia bananas.

Further testimony revealed that the Apia exporter was paid $US7,750 per shipment, and there were three since April. It was not disclosed just how many pounds of bananas were in each shipment.

After more than two hours of discussion with the committee, Dr. Tagoilelagi announced that the school lunch program would discontinue the ordering of green bananas from Samoa and instead, buy them from local farmers.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to >samoanews@samoatelco.com 

 

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