DHAKA – A joint school meals initiative reaching 14,000 children in Bamna Upazila under Barguna District was launched today by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) along with the Government of Bangladesh, with funding from the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID).
Instead of the micronutrient-fortified biscuits usually provided in school feeding programmes in Bangladesh, children in 63 schools will receive a freshly-prepared nutritious kichuri every day at lunch time. The meals are made from locally procured rice, pulses, nutrient-fortified oil and home-grown vegetables. The rice is fortified with six essential vitamins and minerals, helping ensure the children get all the nutrients they need to grow and learn well.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Honourable Minister of Primary and Mass Education Dr. Md. Afsarul Ameen, Director General at the Directorate of Primary Education Mr Shyamal Kanti Ghosh, AusAID Education Specialist Ms Laura Savage, and WFP Representative Ms Christa Räder.
“The Government is pleased to launch this initiative with WFP which we hope will become a model as we are gradually expanding school feeding”, said the Honourable Minister at the ceremony.
“WFP is honoured to be part of this important learning initiative with the Ministry” said Ms Räder. “We thank the Australian government for its generous contribution which makes this possible.”
The school meals initiative aims to benefit the entire community by employing local women as cooks and creating linkages with local vegetable producers. Women from the community will earn income by supplying vegetables for the school meals in their village school. Around 1,000 women vegetable growers who have already been assisted under the Joint UN Food Security and Nutrition Programme in Bamna will also be involved, and a further 3,000 women will be supported to become vegetable suppliers for local schools.
The initiative builds on the ongoing collaboration between the World Food Programme and the Government which together currently supply micronutrient-enriched biscuits to
2.7 million pre-primary and primary schoolchildren in Bangladesh.
Distributions of nutritious food at school improve school enrolment and attendance rates by encouraging children to come to class and supporting poor parents to keep their children enrolled. The food also helps alleviate short term hunger, allowing children to concentrate better on their lessons, and provides much needed vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be missing or insufficient in the children’s diet.
The School Meals initiative will provide valuable information about the opportunities, challenges and costs of such a project, and provide evidence to support the integration of school meals programmes into the government’s Primary Education Sector Plan.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.
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