In April 2014, an earthquake struck Nicaragua and caused damage to structures throughout the nation. The earthquake caused roof damage to one of the local schools in the area, as well as the complete destruction of one classroom. While waiting for repairs, students of the José Dolores Estrada School had to halt their education. Once the school was deemed safe, the School Feeding Programme was established to curb rates of hunger in the region, while also encouraging students to return to school. The program reached some 10,000 schools across the country and managed to feed 1 million 50 thousand children.
Norma Irías, the Deputy Minister of Education, inaugurated the second year of the School Feeding Programme, alongside parents, teachers and the Mayor, in a recent ceremony. Mateare was one of the municipalities of Managua, which was highly affected by the earthquakes. “We, in the national government, are working closely with families and local authorities to ensure that food is available to children in schools,” said Irías.
Ingredients for meals to be prepared at school include: vegetable oil, corn, rice, cereal, beans and powdered milk, and parents have the option to further enrich their child’s meals by adding vegetables, sugar, cheese and other ingredients, if their wages permit. Nevertheless, the basic ingredients will be provided in schools over the next 50 days via the School Feeding Programme. Isaac Ruíz (left), 10 years old, 4th Grade: “Cereal is my favourite,” said Isaac. “It is nutritious, and I feel like it gives me strength to play, think and study.” Andrés Reyes (right), 8 years old. “I also like cereal,” he said as his friends look to identify the micronutrient-fortified cereal.
Deysi Medina has three children: Erick (4), Steicy (5) and Jeimy (8). While the two older girls attend school, Deysi contributes in the school kitchen to prepare meals for 693 students from preschool to primary school. “For me, I like to make the cereal the most. I add sugar and ice and the kids are happy to eat it. Some come back and ask for more,” said Medina. Many mothers of the students work with the school. “Those who are unemployed will work at the school, because food is a benefit for both children and their parents,” she added.
“All the efforts of the School Feeding Programme are directed towards the welfare, health and happiness of the children of Nicaragua,” said the WFP Representative, Helmut W. Rauch at the opening ceremony of the second distribution of food for the National School Feeding Programme. Rauch was accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Education, who recognized the importance of educators and parents’ participation in this programme. Moreover, their role ensures the availability of food to children and fulfilling their basic human right to food. WFP’s contribution to this national programme was 920 metric tons of food (20, 240 quintals), valued at $909,000.
Food is an incentive for children to attend school, get an education and better assimilate knowledge. Access to this food is sometimes limited, thus, the food consumed by children through the School Feeding Programme was funded by contributions from the Government of Nicaragua, as well as, from Japan, Switzerland and Australia through the World Food Programme.
“Children who do not have food at home and cannot not eat in the morning no longer have to worry, as they will get to eat at school,” said Juan Ruíz, a student’s parent. “Fathers, like mothers, are also involved in preparing food for our children,” he added. The deputy director of the centre, Flor Castillo, said they made great efforts to rehabilitate the school after the earthquake damage, to reintegrate children back into the school and continue to give the children school meals.