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U.S. helps primary school children fulfill their life potentialed

U.S. Ambassador Peter M. Haymond handed over 93 containers of fortified rice, lentils, canned fish and fortified cooking oil to Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Sisouk Vongvichith at the World Food Programme’s (WFP) warehouse in Vientiane on Tuesday.

The food will be used to prepare healthy school lunches for 63,000 school children across the Lao PDR.

Since 2008, the U.S. government’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been supporting the WFP school meal programme in Laos, with contributions totaling approximately USD85 million.

The current donation consists of 1,300 metric tons of fortified rice, 230 metric tons of lentils, 130 metric tons of canned fish and 110 metric tons of fortified cooking oil.

The food will be used to cook school lunches for school children in 718 primary schools in 18 priority districts identified by the Ministry of Education and Sports, where many children would otherwise attend school on an empty stomach.

The meals will be complemented with community and school garden contributions consisting of eggs, vegetables and leafy greens.

The support to schools comes in the form of a holistic package of services. Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), WFP provides a package of school health and nutrition services, including school meals, installation of safe school water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, supporting communities to build dining rooms, storage facilities and kitchens, setting up school gardens, community green houses and fishponds, as well as running literacy activities. WFP also provides agricultural and policy support to communities and authorities.

“The success of school meals is evident. A few weeks ago, WFP handed over the schools under the previous, U.S.–supported school meals programme to the Ministry of Education and Sports. We are confident that this programme supports the health and education of Lao youth,” said U.S. Ambassador Haymond.

School feeding enhances enrollment rates and helps children stay in school longer. Investing in children’s nutrition, health and education during the middle childhood years, and sustaining this into adolescence, will help children to reach their full potential and build human capital, become productive adults and break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. With the help of healthy meals, families and communities start to see the benefits of school, which helps to reduce poverty in the long term.

For the first time, WFP is using fortified rice for its school meals programme. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are added to the rice, which has no effect on taste, but has a big impact on helping to eradicate all forms of malnutrition. Together with the Ministry of Health, WFP is currently working on local production of fortified rice in Laos, with the aim of providing such rice to school children towards the mid-point of the current school feeding project.

“A fully nationally-run school meal programme is our goal,” said WFP Country Director and Representative Jan Delbaere. “In times of fiscal difficulties due to COVID-19, we are happy to see the Government of the Lao PDR dedicated to continue working with us to reach this joint goal. Prioritising children to return to school, and using schools as platforms for improving health and nutrition is the key for a stronger next generation,” he said.

Source: Lao News Agency