Government of Sri Lanka and WFP provide food rations to children who are missing out on school meals

WFP

COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with food items and funding to provide school children with take-home rations in lieu of in-school meals.

With WFP’s assistance, the Government will commence the second phase of take-home rations distribution to 1.2 million children enrolled in the National School Meal Programme. This initiative is funded by the Government with a contribution of US$6 million (approximately LKR1.2 Billion) and WFP with a contribution of US$200,000 (approximately LKR40 million). The food ration handout is overseen by the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-school and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services.

The emergence of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka required swift school closures as a preventive measure. While this played a critical role in minimizing the spread of the virus, it means that children are unable to benefit from the nutritious meal they normally receive in school. In response to a request from the Government, WFP stepped in to ensure school children of vulnerable families receive much-needed food assistance.

“For many children from low-income families, the food they receive in school is often the only substantial, nutritious meal they have in a day,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP in Sri Lanka. “COVID-19 related job losses and reduced incomes are making it harder for families to feed themselves. We want to help ensure that children continue to receive healthy food during these challenging times.”

The Government of Canada redirected US$200,000 (approximately LKR40 million) from its planned projects to assist WFP and the Government of Sri Lanka in procuring one month’s worth of rations for 41,000 school children. The Government of Japan redirected 189 MT of canned fish which was initially donated for the in-school meals and will now be included in the ration packs for 220,000 families, providing children with vital protein in their diet.

“Upholding the health and safety of school children has been our foremost priority throughout our COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” says State Minister of Women and Child Development, Pre-school and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services, Piyal Nishantha de Silva. “While measures have been put in place to ensure school children have continued access to education, we want to also ensure that they have access to nutritious food. We thank WFP and the Governments of Canada and Japan for helping us reach families when they are in most dire need.”

WFP has been supporting the National School Meal Programme since 2003 as part of its broader efforts to improve child nutrition. In 2020, WFP augmented its support through the launch of the Home Grown School Feeding project. The on-going project links smallholder farmers with the School Meal Programme and aims to ensure that students receive fresh, nutritious food while smallholder farmers have improved food security through a steady source of income.

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