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In Cambodia WFP and Education Ministry host cooking contests to celebrate school cooks’ contribution

KAMPONG CHHNANG & PURSAT – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, with support from KOICA, are this month recognizing the role school cooks play in the school meals programme through a series cooking competitions.

“The school meals programme has a proven impact on students’ health, growth and success in the classroom. School cooking contests are a fun way to recognize the hard work and dedication of the 3,000 school cooks in Cambodia’s school meals programme. The hot, nutritious breakfast they prepare every morning goes a long way towards a brighter future for the children of Cambodia,” said Claire Conan, WFP Representative and Country Director.

“It is also a chance for the cooks to learn the importance of kitchen hygiene and food safety practices, share their cooking experience and grow their understanding of school meal requirements and the basics of nutrition,” said H.E. Yung Kunthearith, Deputy Director of the School Health Department.

Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, the school meal cooking contest promotes healthy and nutritious school meals, while encouraging creativity in a cost-effective manner. Each cook is given US$5 to buy ingredients, and they must use at least three locally-produced ingredients and follow child nutrition guidelines to make a special dish. Meals are judged by a panel made of staff from the School Health Department and WFP on their originality, taste, texture and appearance. Additional points are rewarded for the presentation of the dish. Three winning cooks from each district will go to the final provincial-level competition where the ingredients and menu are revealed right before the cooking starts. Three best cooks will emerge and be awarded.

A total of 15 winners from five districts in Pursat made it to the final round of competition at the provincial level and in Kampong Chhnang, 18 winners from the six districts moved to the final. The first-standing cook of each province received a US$150 prize, the second US$120 and the third US$100. The champion cooks also won their respective schools US$100 to be used to purchase school kitchen equipment.

Today, there are more than 3,000 school cooks working in 1,113 schools under the School Feeding Programme. The breakfast they prepare serves some 300,000 pre-primary and primary school children across rural Cambodia.