A delegation from PepsiCo Quaker in the Netherlands recently travelled to Benin to visit WFP’s school feeding programme, which the company is supporting. The visit demonstrated the impact that PepsiCo Quaker’s contributions have had on primary schools in Benin.
Cotonou – Since 2011, the Dutch branch of Quaker, a PepsiCo subsidiary, has been raising awareness and funds for WFP Benin’s school feeding programme. To date, Quaker has provided over 2 million school meals to primary school children throughout Benin. These contributions have helped WFP to improve school enrolment and retention rates, as well as students’ concentration in the classroom. The WFP-Quaker partnership is critical to the provision of daily school meals for students in Benin.
“PepsiCo Quaker and WFP joined together in Benin to promote quality education through school meals, whose ultimate objective is to increase rural school children’s attendance and attention in class,” said WFP Benin Country Director Moumini Ouedraogo.
During their visit, members of the PepsiCo Quaker delegation travelled to the communes of Adjohoun, Toviklin and Agbangnizoun in southern Benin, where they visited five WFP assisted primary schools. Students welcomed the delegation with songs, dance and speeches that expressed their appreciation for the school meals they receive.
“Despite whatever preconceptions one might have, it was very different to come to Benin and see firsthand the impact of a single school meal on the lives of these children,” said Lisette Heukensfeldt Slaghek, a member of the delegation. Following the visit to WFP assisted schools, the delegation visited the Songhaï Center, a centre for training on sustainable farming production, research and development.
School feeding project
Now in its third year of operation, the school feeding project supports districts in Benin with the highest rates of poverty and chronic malnutrition, and where school enrolment rates are below the national average. In some districts of Benin, net school enrolment rates are less than 50%. In WFP assisted schools, primary school students receive a daily meal composed of maize, beans, fortified vegetable oil and iodized salt.
As a part of its activities, WFP emphasizes community ownership of school canteens and local community involvement. Parent associations often manage the canteen and are responsible for maintaining the kitchens and food storage areas, and providing condiments to add to the school meal. To encourage community development and local production, WFP Benin aims to purchase 70% of annual commodities for school meals locally, from small-holder farmers. In 2012, 76% of WFP food purchased for its school meals activities in Benin was produced locally.
The commodities distributed under the school feeding project were selected according to the dietary habits of the country and the nutritious value of the food. The school meal provides primary schoolchildren with 720 kcal per day. In addition, WFP Benin has partnered with FAO to implement 10 pilot school gardens and has held trainings on basic school garden development and management for community members. This new initiative facilitates the diversification of school meals and provides the community with practical experience in food production and natural resource management.
Government capacity building for management of school canteens is a central component of the school feeding project. WFP provides technical assistance to the Government of Benin in order to support the establishment and functioning of a national school feeding programme that will eventually take over completely from WFP.