Kingdom expands school feeding programmes

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Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron (centre) takes a group photo with forum attendees. MINISTRY OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron said on Monday that with the government’s long-standing partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and many other partners, Cambodia is now preparing its school feeding implementation to be fully homegrown.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 21st Global Child Nutrition Forum on Monday in Siem Reap province, Chuon Naron said: “After the transition, school meals would be more nutritious and come with more options. Also, smallholder farmers would be supported.”

The forum is being held in Siem Reap town for five days from December 2 to 6, organised by the ministry in cooperation with the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) and WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger.

Up to this year, the forum has been held for 21 times, with this being the first time the forum is held in Asia.

A press release issued by the ministry on Monday said that the school feeding programmes are beneficial to the education, health and nutrition of children in schools.

The ministry said: “In the academic year 2018-2019, with support from the World Food Programme of the UN and some development partners, the school feeding programmes have been implemented in 1,167 primary schools in eight provinces.

“There were 260,000 children receiving breakfast, around 8,000 children given nutrition and around 50,000 children receiving breakfast made from agricultural products from local communities.”

According to the ministry, with more budget from the government this year, the school feeding programmes will expand its scope in six other provinces to cover another 205 primary schools which would benefit 50,000 children.

The expansion of the programmes will cause the amount of rice to be used in the school feeding programmes to increase to nearly 8,000 tonnes. More than 2,500 tonnes of rice and nearly 800 tonnes of vegetables would be bought directly from communities.

The ministry said that the school feeding programme is a main priority, as stated in the Education Strategic Plan 2019-2023, National Policy of Social Protection and human capital building of the Kingdom.

Chuon Naron said that Cambodia had created school feeding programmes to reduce poverty and promote, maintain and develop human resources in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said: “The programme encouraged parents and guardians of children in communities to participate with schools in their communities.”

Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said that the government of Cambodia had always considered nutrition as an integral need for children’s growth, especially in the first 1,000 days of age (3 years old). This is to ensure they can grow both physically and mentally.

The government vowed to eliminate the stunted growth of children under five years old by 2025 and lack of nutrition by 2030.

Pornmoniroth said: “The government will invest more to expand basic education, improve the health sector, reduce mother and infant mortality rate, increase nutrition and social protection and other relevant efforts for the development of human capital for high productivity.

“School feeding programmes have the potential to unlock multiple benefits for school children, their families, communities, and entire nations,” said WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil director Daniel Balaban.

“Gathering high-ranking officials from over 50 countries every year to discuss strategies to strengthen school feeding translates into a stronger governmental commitment to school feeding and positive impacts on education, health and socio-economic indicators.”

“Healthy and well-nourished school children learn better. Still, 73 million children go to school hungry and 10 million of them are in Asia,” said WFP assistant executive director Valerie Guarnieri.

“The Forum plays an important role in mobilising stronger government commitment and pushing school feeding high on national,regional and global agendas.”