The first batch of USDA food contribution for 2015-2017 to WFP School Meals Programme has arrived in Vientiane. The Super Cereal and vitamin-enriched vegetable oil will be transported to over 1,500 village schools, including the remotest areas of Laos, for community cooks to prepare a daily mid-morning snack for pre-primary and primary students. The nutritious snack encourages students to come to school, reduces hunger and helps the students concentrate in classes.
The WFP Vientiane warehouse has been busy receiving 49 transport trucks loaded with Super Cereal (corn soy blend plus) and Vitamin A and D enriched oil provided by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 24,800 bags of Super Cereal and nearly 14,000 boxes of oil will be used to support 190,000 students this year through the WFP School Meals Programme.
WFP Head of School Meals, Nanna Skau, notes “The Super Cereal and oil generously donated by USDA will reach more than 17 percent of all primary school children in Laos. The Super Cereal is fortified and will give the children the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong and improve their learning”. The Super Cereal and oil from USDA are key ingredients, along with sugar, for the mid-morning snack that is prepared daily for the pre-primary and primary school students.
The School Meals Programme, including take-home rations, is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) in 1,500 primary schools and 200 secondary schools across seven of the least developed provinces in Laos. Operating in Laos since 2002, the School Meals Programme relies on the strong support of the community, who provide cooks and storekeepers as well as labour to build the kitchens and storage facilities.
Comprehensive Support To WFP School Meals
A US$27 million agreement signed between USDA and WFP for McGovern Dole Funding will provide support to the School Meals Programme from 2015-2017. WFP's programmes in Laos are focused on reducing undernutrition -- with the School Meals Programme expected to assist the Lao Government and other development partners with increasing attendance and improving literacy rates among students.
In addition to school meals, capacity building and awareness raising, another key aspect of the USDA support to WFP is the take-home ration programme. The programme provides a rice ration every semester to nearly 35,000 informal boarders, mostly at secondary schools who live too far from school to travel daily. This support is critical because the 2010 Labour Force and Child Labour Survey in Laos noted that while 71 percent of children complete primary school, only 60 percent (or 55 percent of females) go on to enrol in secondary school.
Other key donors for WFP School Meals programme in the country include Australian Aid – through the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) programme - as well as the Government of Cuba and the Japan Association for WFP.