School meals are composed of rice, maize grits, pulses and vegetable oil. This provides wholesome meals, and teachers report that the children come home from winter breaks looking pale and weak but become healthy and robust again while at school. This implies that the children eat a lot better at school.
What plans are there for making school lunches available for all children?
In Bhutan, all basic education up to end of 8th grade is completely free, including boarding schools. Because the population is so scattered, one in four schools has boarding facilities. The Royal Government of Bhutan provides a stipend for the third meal in all boarding schools and recently took over all meals in class 11 and 12 from WFP. The Government is committed to take over WFP’s school feeding activities and in 2009 will also fully incorporate all three meals in boarding classes 9 and 10 in its stipend system.
The decrease in funding for school feeding has resulted in more narrow re-targeting of day schools for inclusion in the school feeding program. We have been forced to select only the neediest schools, a painful exercise, as there are so many other children in need. We had to decide between schools where children walk 2 hours or 4 hours to school. We had to decide between schools where 90% or 50% of children live in shacks near the school because home is too far away to commute everyday.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program? What has been the effect of rising food prices in this funding effort?
While the Royal Government of Bhutan is very committed to the school feeding project, it does not have yet adequate resources to nationalize completely the school feeding project.
The Government also has the intention to provide school meals to all rural day schools in the future. Their goal is to attract more kids to school as well as release parents from the burden of providing a pack-lunch everyday. With a strong response to high food prices from the international community, we hope that funding for the school feeding program will also increase. An investment in school feeding is an investment in the future.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
You can go directly to WFP’s website and donate online. There are also annual fund raising events like “Walk the World”, where money collected goes directly to under-funded school feeding programs. Furthermore, WFP Bhutan also assists schools with boarding facilities, kitchens, stores, fuel-efficient stoves and the introduction of school agricultural programs. Individual donors wishing to assist these non-food activities can also contact WFP Bhutan directly in Thimphu.