UN World Food Programme

Kids In Bolivia Feed Their Dreams At School

Eulalia Sanco Ishlla, 10, says the food at her school in Huarimarca is even tastier than what she eats at home, because there are always lots of vegetables. WFP/Ximena Loza

Education is the surest route to a better life for kids in the Bolivian highlands, one of the poorest regions in South America, where staying in school is easier said than done. Nutritious meals provided by WFP not only help to keep kids in class, but give them the nutrition they need to grow and learn.

HUARIMARCA—In the windswept highlands of southern Bolivia, a dozen children from the town of Huarimaca crowd into a mud-brick school room to study everything from reading and writing to math and science.   
Holding up a carefully sketched drawing of the human body, it’s easy to tell which subject Eulalia Sanco Ishlla likes best. Does she want to be a doctor when she grows up? Eulalia shrugs. She’s ten years old and not quite sure yet. But she does know one thing:
 
“I want to have a nice house in the city with flowers and a garden and trees,” she says. Eulalia knows that she’ll have to study hard and stay in school to make it happen—a tough job on top of all her other chores. 
 
But the steaming bowl of rice and potatoes waiting for her when she gets there helps to get her out the door each morning. “At home we only eat once and it’s not as tasty as the food we eat in school,” says Eulalia, who’s not afraid to admit that she’s a big fan of vegetables.
 
No ordinary meal
The school’s lone teacher, Eulogio teaches all of the subjects by himself to a class of twelve students who range from five to fourteen years old. It’s not an easy job, but he says that his last post at a different school was even harder.
 
 “There was no school meals programme at the school where I taught last and you could really see the difference,” he said. “They were tired all the time and couldn’t concentrate. Many of them had to walk a long way to school on an empty stomach. By the time they arrived, they had no more energy to learn.” 
 
Children in Huarimarca also face a long trek to school, but the food they eat when they get there gives them the energy to focus in class. In fact, Eulogio says that it’s often more varied and nutritious than the meals they eat at home.
 
“Vegetables are a regular part of their diet here, whereas they can’t always count on having vegetables to eat at home,” he said.
 
Just as importantly, he says that it also gives the parents of girls like Eulalia an added incentive to send their daughters to school, even after they reach an age when many families would be tempted to take them out. 
 
Vital programme
 
WFP provides meals to around 80,000 children in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where around 40 per cent of children under five in communities like Huarimarca suffer from stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition.
 
To break the cycle of hunger and malnutrition, it’s crucial that children like Eulalia get the nutrition they need so that they can stay in school and fulfil their dreams.