VIENTIANE – For the first time in Lao PDR, close to 1,000 primary school children will receive a healthy and balanced school lunch prepared from foods bought at their local market. Their village schools are the first to participate in a new Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) project implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Government of Lao PDR. The pilot is generously supported by the Australian Government, who made funding available to conduct a baseline survey, support programme design and produce training materials.
During the past week, officials from the Lao Ministry of Education (MOE) have been trained on the principles of HGSF and healthy nutrition. Activities will be piloted in nine villages across Phongsaly and Oudomxay provinces from March to May 2011.
“The Government of Lao PDR has already made great strides towards a national school meals programme. The Home Grown School Feeding pilot is an important step in this direction, and WFP stands ready to support the Government now and in the future to ensure no child in Lao PDR has to attend school hungry,” said Ms Eri Kudo, WFP Representative in Lao PDR.
In Vientiane, WFP conducted a course for 12 members of the MOE School Meals Committee, two of whom then transferred the knowledge they gained to officials of the Provincial Education Services and District Education Bureaus in Phongsaly and Oudomxay. These district officials are visiting the pilot villages this week to ensure the local Village School Meals Committees too are well prepared.
Under the pilot, schoolchildren will receive a lunch made from rice provided by WFP and completed by food their school buys at local markets. In this way, schools with HGSF not only ensure children receive a nutritious meal every day they attend classes, but also support local farmers by buying the foods they produce. The lessons learned in the pilot villages will be used to refine the programme and expand HGSF to more schools in the following school year.
In Lao PDR, about 157,000 pre-primary and primary school students children living in remote villages benefit from the WFP-assisted school meals programme. Every day at school, they receive a nutritious mid-morning snack that stills short-term hunger and helps them concentrate on their lessons. At the beginning and end of the school year, take-home rations of rice are given to the students to help them and their families continue on the path of education. In addition to the nutritional benefits, school meals have been shown to be an effective way to encourage parents to send their children - especially girls - to school.