Numerous natural disasters have taken their toll on the country of Nicaragua and its economy. According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), “Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
WFP is running school feeding programs as part of the strategy for lifting the country out of poverty. However, there is not enough funding to provide school meals to every child in the country. William Hart, the WFP country director for Nicaragua, provides a detailed update on the status of school feeding.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP School Feeding Programs within the country?
The World Food Programme (WFP) reaches out to people suffering from hunger and malnutrition with a special emphasis on the most vulnerable in a population: children. WFP in Nicaragua provides a nutritious school lunch to 300,000 boys and girls at the pre-school and elementary levels in 3,100 rural poor schools.
These are located in municipalities with high levels of food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. The program is carried out with the government of Nicaragua and is aimed at providing support to poor families unable to feed children with adequate meals.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance and nutrition.
The saying, “It is hard to learn on an empty stomach,” portrays the stark reality of a hungry child. The lack of necessary nutrients in a child’s diet affects his or her physical and mental activity. The child cannot concentrate in the classroom and is sometimes too weak to even walk to school.
Education is the key to building a nation with strong, successful families and communities, but hunger keeps children away from classrooms. WFP assistance represents an opportunity for children to attend school, to get an education, and to eat a nutritious meal, improving their physical and mental health.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
School meals are delivered to children attending classes. Because WFP does not have enough funding to expand the coverage to all of municipalities, WFP´s program focuses on those municipalities with the highest rates of food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Nicaraguan government has made efforts to address other areas of the country and parents of schoolchildren have been contributing whatever amount of food they are able, such as fruits and vegetables from family nurseries, to complement their children’s meals.
This being said, Nicaragua is a poor country without enough resources to fully cover the meals of schoolchildren. Given that poverty drives many children to attend school without enough food in their stomachs, WFP is continuously working towards developing new fundraising strategies and initiatives to advance our agenda and expand coverage to more students.
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?
The Nicaraguan government’s funding of the school feeding program is complemented by resources from the international donor community, helping the program reach a larger number of school children.
Despite WFP`s continuous hard work, the immediate effect of rising food and fuel prices has increased the operational costs of the program, which reduces the likelihood of expanding school feeding to more schools and children.
Both the government of Nicaragua and WFP are working to obtain additional resources to reduce the gap between the limited resources available and the high number of children that would benefit from the school feeding program. This will allow the Nicaraguan government and WFP to focus on a larger number of children and gain ground in the fight against hunger.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
We face a great challenge ahead of us. We must come together to address chronic hunger in the nation in order to make real progress. Contributions can be channeled via the WFP and, in the United States, through Friends of WFP.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?
Education is, and always will be, the core of a society. This program is important because it enhances education and has a commitment to future generations. School feeding initiatives are necessary in communities where there is limited education access due to extreme poverty conditions and where poverty-stricken families are unable to put enough food on their tables.
Food therefore becomes an incentive for children to attend classes, giving them an opportunity for an education. The certainty of one meal a day helps reduce a child’s chances of malnourishment.
School feeding programs also allow children to learn more about the immediate effects of hunger, as well as good hygiene habits and nutritious food choices. Studies have determined that malnutrition in children is reduced when mothers have been given instruction on nutrition. We are currently working on a strategy to implement this instruction in communities to make a difference and foster the hope for a better future.