Haiti: Nutrition for Education

On International School Meals Day staff at the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti reflect on the importance of nutrition for education. 

The courtyard of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince is bustling with playground activity. It is 10 o’clock and school administrator Nicolas Sulla, 31, is preparing the kitchen and the classrooms for meal time. In a school with over 600 students this is no easy task. 

One of Nicolas' many duties is the daily running of the school canteen; perhaps the job most close to his heart.  He explains that he moved from Jeremie in the South of the country to Port-au-Price when he was 9 years old to live with his aunt. That year he enrolled at Joseph et Bertha Wigfall, the same school where he works today. 

“I remember receiving school meals here all those years ago.” He says, “Many times I wouldn’t eat until I came to school, and I remember as a child thinking about food all the time. The school meals enabled me to concentrate on my studies and when I completed my professional education in 2005 I came back to my school to work. Personally, I know firsthand how important school meals are to the children. Professionally, I know how important they are for education in Haiti.”

The Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince is one of the many schools in Haiti that benefits from the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program that provided food to more than 153,000 school children in Haiti during the 2012/2013 school year. 

Contributions like this provide much needed food to the national school meals programme but the continuity of this support also means that WFP can support the government to implement nutrition and awareness programmes.  Today, in more than 2000 schools across Haiti, children are healthier and getting more out of their schools meals thanks to a nation-wide deworming initiative. This is a crucial step to ensure that children in Haiti are healthy and can draw the nutritional benefits of the food they receive. 

“We have a proverb in Haiti”, explains Danielle Selicour, the headmistress of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School, “‘Sak vid pa kanpe’, which means an empty sack cannot stand up. By this we mean that when your stomach is empty you are not able to do anything. I have worked at this school for over 36 years and we have been receiving WFP school meals for as long as I can remember.  But it is not just the food that is important; it is also the health of the school children. The parents here are really happy because for the first time since the earthquake we are also giving deworming medications. This improves the children’s health as well as providing them with a hot meal at school.”  

The nationwide de-worming campaign is the first step of a winder initiative to sensitize school teachers, students and parents on the importance of health and nutrition for better learning.  The programme, developed with the Ministry of Population and Public Heath and the Ministry for Education, aims to use the schools meals programme as an avenue to fight nutritional deficiencies such as anemia and raise awareness of good hygiene and nutritional practices. 

On the 6th of March, International School Meals Day, WFP Haiti wishes to thank our donors for supporting the Haitian government to provide a hot meal to 685,000 school children during the school year.