School Meals: Feeding Futures and Nourishing Minds in Haiti
The National School Meals Programme is the single largest food safety net in Haiti, feeding 685,000 children every year. For many families, school meals are the greatest incentive to keep their children in education. The World Food Programme urgently needs US$ 11.3 million to continue its planned school feeding activities in Haiti.
Port-au-Price- It is 7.30 in the morning at the Bon Repos dairy just outside Port-au-Prince in Haiti and Pier Luis Saenfanel is organising his team for the busy morning ahead. The dairy produces around 450 litres of milk a day which is used to make cheese and milk products, and today is no different. The staff are working nimbly in the cramped space around him preparing the milk for pasteurization, sterilization and quality testing.
Bon Repos is one of 20 dairies across the country that provides fresh milk to 32,000 children in schools supported by the National School Meals Programme.
Every day, the dairies pasteurise and sterilise the “Lèt Agogo” milk. With the support of WFP, they distribute it to schools in their vicinity. For farmers, this represents a significant improvement of food and income security while the school children, often the children of the local milk producers, benefit from a nutritious bottle of milk twice a week.
“Supplying milk for the children guarantees a market for what we produce”, says Pier Luis, “It valorises our product and the connection between local dairy farmers and local schools is accompanied by training programmes run by the Ministry of Agriculture and its partners. This is how I started here in Bon Repos in 2003”.
Connecting Local Businesses with Local Schools
Half an hour down the road from the Bon Repos dairy, it is lunch time at the Ecole Nationale de Sibert. School children carry large bowls of rice and peas with fortified oil and salt over the dusty courtyard from the makeshift outdoor kitchen to each class room. Today is also a day when the children will receive one of their two rations of “Lèt Agogo” milk for the week. The milk contains vital micronutrients that the children need to grow and learn.
Overseeing the canteen is Headmistress Madame Nerlande Laguerre who is responsible for making sure that the children of the Ecole Nationale de Sibert are fed as well as taught in the classroom, “the two things go together for us”, she says. “We know that without the food they are given at school a lot of these children would not be here because it is difficult for many families to make ends meet. The food is such a large incentive to keep them in school”.
The 4th year class is strangely quiet during meal time, a short break to eat before going back to their studies- for many this is an important moment of the day.
Stanley Derosier, 10, Luis-Nixon, 13, and Jeralson Thomas, 12, are enjoying their food and “Lèt Agogo” milk contentedly at the back of the crowded class room. “You see, when I finish school I want to be the next president of Haiti,” says, Stanley. His friends Luis-Nixon and Jeralson dream of becoming a policemen and a mathematics teacher.
School meals help to nourish the minds of future generations but just as importantly they feed their futures. The cost of a school meal for Stanley, Luis Nixon and Jeralson is 26 cents per day or US$50 for the whole school year. This plate of food, or 26 cents, is what stands between them and their dreams of becoming a policeman, a teacher or even the next president.
In Haiti, the school meals programme is also a means for the Haitian government and WFP to support the development of local markets by supplying food to the children that has been bought locally. In addition to the 11.870 bottles of milk from 20 dairies across the country, WFP plans to purchase up to 3,000 MT of rice this year for the school meals programme.
Despite the generous support of donors, WFP urgently needs US$ 11.3 million to continue providing school meals.
WFP provides school meals to children like Stanley, Luis Nixon and Jeralson in Haiti thanks to the support of the USA, Canada, Brazil, private donors and The Union of South American States (UNASUR).
Click here to see more of what WFP is doing in the Bon Repos dairy and the Ecole Nationale de Sibert.