A number of National Heroes’ Circle crab vendors who have been trained and certified as small food operators by the HEART/NSTA Trust are expected to return to their stalls by November 23.
Chief executive officer of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) Robert Hill told a meeting of the KSAMC yesterday that the corporation and the HEART/NSTA Trust have collaborated for the training of 12 vendors in small foods preparation and sales in a five-day training programme.
He said the vendors will also receive food handler’s permits from the Public Health Department, which trained them and is expected to start training vendors in other municipalities.
However, in a message to yesterday’s monthly meeting, Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams said that the situation relating to the closure of the popular Crab Circle at National Heroes’ Circle is not an issue for the KSAMC alone, but for all Jamaicans.
Councillor Williams, who was responding to questions raised by the Opposition about the incident which led to the closure of the famous crab spot, noted that while there have been some “disturbing, disappointing and distasteful” videos circulating about the event, he is making it clear that the municipality will not in in any way excuse personal responsibility, which must be taken or displayed by the operators within these spaces.
“We want to emphasise that vendors who are preparing and handling food offered to the public in these facilities have personal responsibility,” the mayor said in a statement included in this month’s “Order of Business”, which also commended the quick moves by vendors as well as other contributors to the recovery of the investment.
Councillors of the minority People’s National Party (PNP) had laid the blame for the ‘filthy state of affairs’ that led to the closure of the popular venue squarely at the feet of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)-controlled KSAMC. However, JLP members insisted that it was not a political issue.
The PNP’s spokesperson on local government, Natalie Neita Garvey, termed the development a “national disgrace” which should be blamed on the “total breakdown” of the city’s local government and public health systems.
Williams noted that the city of New York had many mobile restaurants along the streets, which are quite popular and which may not have sanitary facilities but wash stations for customers and are an example of the nature of food handling.
The mayor said that addressing the situation at Crab Circle does not only address the situation, in terms of the proliferation of streetside food facilities, but the manner in which the problem is being addressed.
“That in my estimation is the seriousness of the issue and, in my opinion, is how we ought to approach the matter, as it is not a simple issue, or else we could just say, where there are no sanitary conveniences we will remove them all. That, in and of itself, cannot be the answer to the problem. The social issue should be looked at as hundreds and thousands of Jamaicans depend on these types of facilities for their livelihood, to send their children to school, and to take care of their families.
“So, this matter requires a proper examination and discussion in terms of how small food facilities across the country are addressed. That ought to be the approach, in my opinion. Directing their closure and asking the vendors to construct sanitary facilities is not the answer. There needs to be serious thought into how the matter is addressed from a national standpoint.
“As mayor I am not here to hide from these things neither am I here to assign blame; that’s not the approach I think that is necessary. The approach is to find solutions,” Mayor Williams said.
He also noted that the HEART/NSTA Trust has been approached to teach a course offered by them, which is called “small food facility operations”. He said that he had perused the content and felt satisfied that the course content will go a far way in addressing many of the sanitation issues with street food facilities.
“We have also suggested that the training by HEART/NSTA for street vendors be offered throughout the country, and not just in Kingston and St Andrew,” he noted.
He said that it is a “good step” in the right direction, and sent the appreciation of the council to the HEART/NSTA for partnering with the municipality, the Public Health Department and the Social Development Commission.
Health officials shut down the crab stalls at Heroes’ Circle in Kingston in the first week of October following a viral video of a vendor relieving herself at one of the stalls.