VIENTIANE – U.S. Ambassador Dr. Peter M. Haymond handed over 93 containers of fortified rice, lentils, canned fish and fortified cooking oil to Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Dr. Sisouk Vongvichith at the World Food Programme’s (WFP) warehouse in Vientiane today. The food will be used to prepare healthy school lunches for 63,000 school children around Lao PDR.
Since 2008, the U.S. Government’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been supporting the WFP school meal programme in Laos, with contributions totaling approximately US$85 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 primary school children in 718 schools in 18 priority districts identified by the Ministry of Education and Sports. Without the school meals, 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.
Partnering 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. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership, and the U.S. remains committed to improving nutrition and health outcomes in Lao PDR.
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 to help prevent malntrution. 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 Jan Delbaere, WFP Country Director and Representative. “In times of fiscal difficulties due to COVID-19, we are happy to see the Government of Lao PDR dedicated to continue working with us to reach this joint goal. Prioritising children’s return to school, and using schools as platforms for improving health and nutrition is key towards a healthy, stronger next generation.”.