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Interview: Angela Van Rynbach, World Food Programme Country Director for Indonesia

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Indonesia is a country recovering from numerous disasters, including the tsunami of 2004. School feeding programs are a key part of the rebuilding process. In this interview with Angela Van Rynbach, UN World Food Programme (WFP) country director for Indonesia, we learn about the status of school feeding programs in Indonesia and how people can help.

How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?

In Indonesia, a total of 250,000 as of June 2008. It is important to note that the target remains 320,000, but limited funding prevents reaching this target number.

Greater Jakarta: 39,600
East Java: 48,000
Lombok Island: 79,800
West Timor: 82,600

Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.

WFP supplies nutritious biscuits, which are fortified with nine vitamins (A, B1, B2, B6, B12, Niacin, Folic Acid, D and E) and five minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, selenium and iodine). Fifty grams of biscuits have a nutritional value of 200 kcal and cover on average 50% of a child’s daily micronutrient requirement.

Children often come to school hungry, so the biscuit as a mid-morning snack gives them the needed energy to concentrate on their studies.

WFP nutrition surveys conducted during 2007 showed a reduction in anemia levels in school children by 4 percent in Aceh and 11 percent in West Timor, Lombok and Madura, as well as having a positive impact by as much as 5 percent on concentration and learning behaviors (based on teacher’s perceptions). The students’ micro-nutrient (anemia) status improved significantly in terms of nutrient outcomes.

The attendance rate increased in schools receiving WFP assistance by 17 percent since 2005.

What plans are there for making school lunches available for all children?

There are currently no efforts to supply school lunches. The main focus will be on providing a daily snack of fortified biscuits and promoting hygiene and nutrition education. Local governments in areas like Banda Aceh and Greater Jakarta have taken over from WFP and supply a mid-morning snack using their own budget or support from private companies.

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?

WFP receives the majority of its funding from donor governments. However, more than 30 percent comes from private sector donations. WFP will continue to pursue both sources for additional funding.

Higher food prices mean a 20 percent increase in the price of fortified biscuits for WFP Indonesia. These biscuits are produced locally in Indonesia.

How can someone help the school feeding program?

The most effective way to donate is through the WFP “Red Cup” campaign.

Anything else you’d like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?

The results so far have encouraged WFP to expand the school feeding programme to other food insecure areas of Indonesia, most notably in the eastern parts where the country’s most vulnerable populations are found (West Timor, Lombok, Madura). The cost to feed one child for a year remains minimal at US$23.75, so any donation goes a long way.

To reach the vulnerable population, WFP collaborates closely with the National School Health Coordinating Board under the Ministry of Education for all strategic and administrative issues as well as with numerous cooperating partners.
WFP is also actively implementing joint programmes with UNICEF, FAO and WHO as part of the Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH) initiatives.

These programmes include parasitic de-worming, which occurs within all WFP School Feeding throughout Indonesia. In 2007, more than 316,000 children received de-worming treatment at least once during the year. Another aspect of the partnership includes an activity called “little doctors.” Students conduct basic screening procedures to check for any indicators of health or hygiene problems and thus, encourage a general behavior change towards better health practices.

Additionally, WFP has partnered with the private sector to improve the quality of education and the health and nutritional levels of school age children on the island of Lombok, as well as in Bogor (West Java) and Madura (East Java). Both corporations supply additional assistance for the purchase of medication used to treat intestinal worms for the children attending the schools.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
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