Providing nutritious meals in schools has been proven to improve enrolment and attendance rates in class and give children the energy to learn and grow. But a School Feeding Programme can do much more – it can be a platform that benefits entire communities.
In October 2012, the Government of Brazil invited Dr. Md. Afsarul Ameen, the Minister of Primary and Mass Education of the Government of Bangladesh, and other government representatives to visit the WFP Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brasilia to learn about successful approaches to home-grown school feeding, especially the approach taken by the Government of Brazil.
Brazil is recognized as having one of the strongest national-funded school feeding programmes. During the trip, Honourable Minister Dr. Ameen met central and local government representatives, local small-scale producers who sell food to the schools, as well as students in urban and rural schools who benefit from daily school meals.
The study tour explored best practices and lessons learned about the institutional, legal, policy, and financial frameworks and mechanisms of a sound school feeding model which is part of a larger social safety net approach.
Following the trip to Brazil, the Bangladeshi delegation drafted a national school feeding policy and strategy and prepared an action plan on mainstreaming school feeding in the country. The knowledge and experiences gained from the visit encouraged the implementation of home-grown school meals with active participation from local vegetable growers.
With the delegation back in Bangladesh, a home-grown school meals initiative was launched in July 2013.
In Bamna, on the southern coast of Bangladesh, the shortest way to a village is often by boat. Here, we see the Honourable Minister of Primary and Mass Education Dr. Md. Afsarul Ameen arriving to launch the school meals programme which, for the first time for WFP in Bangladesh, will supply students with freshly-cooked nutritious lunches at school.
“The Government is pleased to launch this initiative with WFP which we hope will become a model as we are gradually expanding our country's school feeding programme”, said Honourable Minister Dr. Ameen at the launching ceremony in Bamna, Barguna.
Together, the Government, WFP and other donors already supply three million pre-primary and primary schoolchildren in the poorest areas of Bangladesh with micronutrient-enriched biscuits.
In Bangladesh, lunch is often called tiffin-- after the round container it is transported in. But many families don’t have the resources to send children to school with a meal. Thanks to funding from the Australian Government, these kids now get a nutritious cooked meal every day they attend class.
Instead of the micronutrient-fortified biscuits usually provided in school feeding programmes in Bangladesh, children in 63 schools of Bamna now receive a freshly-prepared nutritious Khichuri every day they come to class. The meal is made from fortified rice, protein rich pulses, fortified oil and locally procured vegetables and spices.
The school meals initiative not only aims to support students but to also benefit the local community. Some of the women in the villages are recruited as cooks, and others earn income from selling vegetables they grow for the school feeding programme in their villages' schools.
AusAID Education Specialist Laura Savage (back right), WFP Representative Christa Räder (back left) and WFP Senior Programme Officer for Capacity Support Shahida Akther (front right) join the women cooks and vegetable growers for a photo.
Having nutritious meals in school encourages vulnerable students in Bangladesh to complete their education.
The Government of Bangladesh, together with WFP, is now on the way towards implementing a sustainable school feeding programme. Through integration with the Primary Education Development Programme Phase III (PEDP-III), the school feeding programme is sure to contribute to improving the quality of education and nutritional status of schoolchildren in Bangladesh.
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