Food Makes Learning Possible For Ambitious Haitian Girl

Marie Anika, 8, wants to work in a bank when she grows up. At the moment, however, she lives in a tent where her house used to be before the earthquake. But that hasn’t stopped her from going to school or dreaming about the future thanks to the hearty meals she eats everyday in class.

PORT-AU-PRINCE—Marie Anika, 8, says she’d like to work in a bank when she grows up. She has never actually been in one but her aunt has told her about banks and she thinks they sound interesting.

For the moment, Marie Anika is living with her parents and her sister in a tent where their old home used to stand before the earthquake. It is located on a small hill overlooking the Ecole Rosalie Javouhey in Port-au-Prince. The earthquake claimed the lives of 21 pupils and damaged or destroyed many classrooms.

plates of rice means and oilLike most of the students, Marie Anika does not always get to eat at home – there simply isn’t enough money for that. That’s why she so looks forward to getting a daily hot meal at school.

“It would be terrible if we didn’t get a meal at school,” she said. “I really wouldn’t like that”.

A crucial meal

The basic ingredients – rice, beans and oil – are provided by WFP as part of its contribution to the Government’s Programme National de Cantines Scolaires (National School Meal Programme).

The religious order that runs the school tries to add some meat, fish or vegetables. The preparation is all done in a small, tin-roofed kitchen in the back yard.

With cholera a real threat, the children are made to line up and wash their hands with soap and water. The food is served by school employees, with some help from the children themselves, between 10 and 10.30 each morning.  After saying grace, the girls eat sitting at their desks.

Fuelling education

The rations are delivered to the school by non-governmental organization BND, one of 25 local and international partners that assist WFP with the school meals programme in Haiti.

Haitian girls all dressed in matching uniforms in a clasroom“They’d simply be too weak to study if they weren’t able to eat something at school,” says the principal, Sister Bernadette. “It’s important for them to have a meal here, most of them come from very poor families”.

WFP’s target is to feed more than one million school children in the current school year in Haiti. Children also sometimes receive take-home rations to share with their families.