Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with one out of three children under five years old suffering from chronic malnutrition. Natural disasters like drought and flooding have all had a major impact on Honduras in recent years. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is emphasizing school feeding to combat hunger and poverty. Jaime Vallaure, WFP country director for Honduras, recently discussed the importance of school meals for children.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
A total of 1.3 million children ages 4 to 12 are benefiting from the program. The program covers about 90 percent of primary schools and pre-school centers.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance and nutrition.
Preliminary indicators show that the program has had a significant impact on increasing school enrollment, keeping children in school longer, and reducing drop-out rates. The purpose of the school feeding program is to increase the levels of education among school children. Honduras, a country prone to have at least one emergency per year, relies on school feeding programs to help in reducing the number of badly affected people. School feeding programs are especially helpful when the emergency is a nutritional one, such as increased levels of acute malnutrition.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
In Honduras, the present coverage of primary schools participating in school feeding has reached a maximum. A lot of work must be done at the pre-school level (four to five years of age). The Ministry of Education should work to increase the number of pre-school centers first, as only 55 percent of the demand for these centers is satisfied by the Government. School meals will then follow.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program?
The Government of Honduras is funding 90 percent of the budget for school feeding programs. International donors through WFP fund nine percent and Honduran private companies fund one percent. WFP manages all of the funds and implements the program according to WFP standards.
What has been the effect of rising food prices in this funding effort?
In 2008 there was an 18 percent increase in the cost per school meal. Most of the costs are directly linked to the rise in the price of commodities and transport costs. Most of the commodities used in the school feeding program are purchased in Honduras. The Government of Honduras has paid for this increase in commodity and transport prices.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
Anything else you’d like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?
There are two things in this world that can change dramatically the entire life of a child: giving him or her the opportunity to be educated, and keeping him or her in good health. School meals may be the only nutritious meal offered to school children and act as a perfect incentive for parents to send their children to school. A rich and nutritious meal served at school serves both objectives: the child is educated and healthy.