The World Food Programme (WFP) today handed over electronic office equipment to the Ministry of Education and Sports, with the ultimate goal of establishing a strong system to implement a sustainable school meal programme with national ownership.
On behalf of the School Meal Programme management committee, Vice Minister of Education and Sports Sourioudong Soundara received computers, printers, projectors and fax machines worth over USD 100,000 from WFP Country Director and Representative Jan Delbaere at an official handover event in Vientiane.
The equipment will be used by the Ministry’s departments on the national, provincial and district level to facilitate the design, implementation and monitoring of the National School Meal programme in 17 districts of 11 provinces.
Since the early 2000s, WFP has been instrumental in supporting the government in building a national system of school-based nutrition, evolving and growing in scale and scope over the years, expanding from snacks to cooked meals, and developing from food only to technical assistance and holistic support for poverty reduction of communities. The primary focus of the collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Sports and WFP has been to ensure school meals year around, with the aim of reducing malnutrition numbers in the Lao PDR, while ensuring access to primary education for children from vulnerable families.
International evidence shows that school meals are an excellent investment, with a direct return of six US$ for every one US$ invested. Globally, WFP – with six decades of experience supporting school-based nutrition programmes, working in more than 100 countries – is shifting from providing direct implementation towards strengthening national systems as a technical support agency.
In Laos, school meals have a positive impact on enrolment rates and attendance, and the holistic package of support has allowed communities to participate in the implementation of the programme through labour and produce contributions, while striving to ensure sustainability via linking school meals to income generating activities. School infrastructure is also enhanced with installation of water supply and establishment of school gardens, while children learn about growing their own nutritious vegetables and hygienic practices.
“We have come a long way since we first started piloting school meals with WFP’s help in 2002. We know that children who receive school meals stay in school half a year longer, on average, compared to their peers. Children do better at school, because they eat well, stay in school, and have a better start in life. This is especially important for girls and communities in remote ethnic areas,” said Vice Minister Sourioudong SOUNDARA. “WFP’s work in garnering financial support from donors and contributing technical expertise to building a national system of school meals has been invaluable over the years.”
“With our partner CRS, we are currently helping the Government to deliver daily lunch to 65,000 primary students in 17 government priority districts. Our goal is to accompany these schools until 2025, for their coordinated incorporation into the National School Meal programme. Institutional capacity building is one of the key elements that this transition encompasses, and the office equipment handed over today plays a vital role in this,” Mr. Delbaere said.
Source: Lao News Agency