In April, the Ambassador of Brazil in Bangladesh, Ms. Wanja Campos da Nóbrega, visited a home-grown school feeding pilot-project supported by the World Food Programme in Islampur, Bangladesh. The pilot-project is one of the initiatives established in the action plan prepared by the delegation of Bangladesh that participated in a study visit to Brazil in September 2012, organized by the Centre of Excellence.
Following the study visit to Brazil, the government of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education requested WFP to explore the possibility of providing school meals as an alternative modality to the biscuit-model that was being implemented in the country. Since October 2013, WFP has been serving school meals in 34 public primary schools and pre-primary schools in two unions of Islampur Upazila, Jamalpur District.
The meal plan has been designed to ensure that children are provided with adequate dietary energy, protein and micronutrients to alleviate short-term hunger, boost nutritional levels, improve health, and in turn improve the energy levels and capacity of children to learn. The daily meal is based on a traditional recipe, khichuri, which is easily adapted to include various local and nutritious ingredients according to availability. The staple ingredients for khichuri include micronutrient fortified rice, pulses and fortified vegetable oil, to which various seasonal ingredients are added, including leafy and non-leafy vegetables and spices. When and where available, fruits are provided to complement the meal.
The fortified rice consists of normal rice blended at a 1:100 ratio with a fortified rice kernel which looks, tastes, and smells like normal rice. The fortified kernel consists of rice flour mixed with Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc, based on the nutritional needs of the nutritionally vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. The distribution of fortified rice is being piloted in several other programmes conducted by the WFP and the Brazilian government.
The school visited by the Ambassador, South Chinaduli Government Primary School, in Islampur Upazila, Jamalpur, begun providing cooked meals to the students in October 2013. Five times per week the students receive a hot cooked meal of khichuri, and on Thursdays (when the school day is shorter) they receive a nutritious snack of micronutrient fortified biscuits and fruit.
According to WFP’s monitoring visits, the School Meals Programme has already shown a positive impact, with enrolment figures in South Chinaduli Government Primary School having increased from 310 to 332 and school attendance also having increased from 70% to 95% since October 2013.
The impact of School Meals on enrolment and attendance rates will continue to be closely monitored. Further, a formative evaluation is planned to be carried out in the second half of 2014, which will be complemented by an analysis considering the cost-benefit of School Meals. An Acceptability Study and an Effectiveness Study on the fortified rice will also generate evidence to inform the appropriateness of the School Meals modality and plans for scale-up.