What do we envision for Haiti within five to ten years? We envision every Haitian child attending school and receiving a daily meal there. We want a national school feeding program in Haiti.
When children are provided meals in school, it boosts attendance rates, improves nutrition levels, and improves classroom performance. The meal takes a bite out of two glaring societal problems: hunger and lack of education.
The Haitian government and aid agencies are hard at work on this school feeding challenge. Right now, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is feeding 1.1 million Haitian children with school meals. Another 300,000 children are receiving meals from the Haitian government, USAID, and other aid agencies. However, there are hundreds of thousands of students who are not receiving regular school meals, so there is a significant gap in coverage.
A teacher at the Ecole Rosalie Javouhey in Port-au-Prince passes out the mid-day meal to her students. (WFP/David Orr)
Unfortunately, that is not all. There are a number of Haitian children who are not attending any school, due to the cost of education. The promise of meals, as well as take-home rations, could help attract these kids to class. This would provide relief for many families in impoverished Haiti.
The goal is to build a national school feeding program capable of reaching every child. In addition, it should be a program that is self-sustainable and run by the Haitian government. The presence of WFP and other aid agencies should fade away as the program gets stronger. WFP held a school feeding handover ceremony last year for Cape Verde. One day it wants a similar ceremony for Haiti.
Local farmers need to be able to produce most if not all of the food supply for the school feeding. Recently, WFP has been working with Haitian dairy farmers as part of a project to supply milk to schools. Brazil provided a donation that allowed WFP to purchase the milk from the farmers. This type of initiative needs to be expanded as well. Funding is secured for this project through June.
Stephanie Tremblay of WFP reports that Haiti has received a grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program, which provides funding for school meal programs in developing countries. This grant will help support school feeding through 2012. Beyond that, the future of McGovern-Dole is up in the air as the recent House budget dramatically slashed school feeding.