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Interview: Vitoria Ginja of the World Food Programme in Bolivia

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In the country of Bolivia, “615,000 boys and girls under 13 go to bed hungry every evening,” according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Providing meals at school can change the lives of these children. In the following interview with Vitoria Ginja of the World Food Programme, we will look at the status of school feeding in Bolivia.

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

Some 180,000 children benefit from WFP school feeding programs in Bolivia.

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

Many children walk at least one mile to get to school, and receiving a full hot breakfast before starting classes alleviates their short term hunger and lets them benefit more from the lesson, thus having better performance rates and grades. In terms of nutrition, school feeding is a complement to what children receive at home and thus they get what they need in order to stay healthy. School feeding is a very good vehicle to add micronutrients to the diet of the children which otherwise would not be consumed.

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

The Government of Bolivia will soon pass a School Feeding Law that will make the provision of school feeding mandatory and universal in all public schools, starting with the most food-insecure municipalities. The law will make resources available for this purpose to Departmental governments and municipalities. The law states that school feeding should be delivered two times a day (breakfast and lunch) in the rural areas, promoting the consumption of local food products and therefore assisting the food sovereignty of the country.

What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program? What has been the effect of high food prices on this funding effort?

The Hydrocarbons tax and municipal and departmental budgets will be the sources of funding for the expansion of school feeding programs in Bolivia. The high food prices have had big effects on school feeding programs provided by WFP. For instance, rice, vegetable oil, and wheat flour have risen more than 120% on average. Because of this, wheat flour has almost disappeared from the market creating an artificial shortage that directly affected our operation for we had to distribute school feeding rations without wheat flour. In addition, we worry if the rising prices continue we will not be able to help feed the same number of children with the same amount of budgeted money.

How can someone help the school feeding program?

Any Foundation or individual can contribute to the school feeding program by donating 25 cents/day per child through World Food Programme Bolivia. The 25 cents covers a breakfast and a lunch. To contribute to the Bolivia school feeding program, you can donate through Friends of the World Food Program or contact us to make a donation directly to our office.

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

Children are the present and future of any country. Investing in school feeding is the most secure investment, for you will get the most returns on it. A healthy and strong child can learn and perform better than a sick and weak one and turn, in the near future, into a promise for his/her family and country.

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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.