In rural areas, a warm lunch meal guarantees that students attend school for a whole year. In the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), a distant and wide region in the North East of Nicaragua, very little food is produced. Due to lack of productivity, the Ministry of Education transports 9,100 units of 100lbs bags of rice, beans, fortified cereals, flour, and vegetable oil to 913 schools which is all done through unpaved roads and flooded rivers.
In the rural and urban schools of the North Atlatic, 88,500 children receive a daily school meal which is prepared by mothers on rustic wood-burning stoves. The “gallo pinto” (read beans mixed with rice,) is the typical meal that is accompanied by flour tortillas and enriched cereals and served to the children. This meal improves the children’s health. These children live in mestizo and indigenous communities with Miskito, and Mayanga descent, where the chronic malnutrition prevalence reaches 30.3%, according to Third National Census of Primary School Children conducted by the ministries of Education and Health.
Preparing lunch is not an easy task. The mothers use all the resources they can get their hands on in these rustic school kitchens that were built by community members. Although they lack drinkable water, wood to feed the fire and kitchen utensils such as plates, glasses and utensils, the community creatively compromises to ensure that every day the children are fed.
To help the school feeding programme, the Joint Programme on Children, Food Security and Nutrition gave kitchen and eating utensils to 42 educational centres in the municipalities of Bonanza, Siuna, Rosita and Prinzopolka. Spain financed this donation through the Millennium Development Goals Fund. Materials and tools were also given to grow school gardens.
Adolfo Reyes, head of the WFP office in Puerto Cabezas, North Atlantic, counts all the plates on which school meals will be served. “The community leaders and school director of Sikilta School arrived mounted on beasts (horses, mares and donkeys) when we were handing out utensils. This community is most accessible through a river, but unfortunately the river dries in the summer,” states Reyes. The distribution was achieved through land and water mobilizations with the support of the Ministry of Education, the regional Government and authorities and community members.
When providing the utensils, personnel from the Ministry of Education and the Regional Government, in coordination with WFP, arranged an information and training session for community leaders and school parents to share their knowledge on how to use the utensils, while simultaneously teaching about proper hygienic and nutritional practices.