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Feeding Cambodian Children One Meal at a Time

Due to high levels of poverty, most families don

INDONESIA

Sabtu, 18 Jan 2014 19:44 WIB

Feeding Cambodian Children One Meal at a Time

Cambodia, free meal, education, poverty, Citra Prastuti

In Cambodia, almost 40 percent of children are chronically malnourished.

Due to high levels of poverty, most families don’t have access to nutritious food.

But some Cambodian primary schools students are lucky enough to have a free daily breakfast provided at school.

One of them is in Wat Run Primary School in Run Taek Commune, around 30 kilometers from the capital.

Long lines of students are waiting... each of them is holding an empty bowl...
 
But they have to wait a bit longer as the cooks are still preparing their breakfast.

They’re not professional cooks, but local farmers trained by the school to provide nutritious food.

Cook Hah Hav explains what they are preparing for the kids today.

“We boil the water for the soup, put in some yellow split peas, then add in some fish.”

As a cook, Hah Hav receives 15 kilos of rice each month for his contribution.

Breakfast is now ready...

Students from higher grades are helping out, dishing out breakfast for everyone.

First grade student 6-year-old Rorm Shrey Theab starts eating in class.

She doesn’t normally have breakfast at home.

Her family is too poor to provide breakfast for their family of five.

“I like the breakfast... I eat breakfast at school. My favourite breakfast is rice.”

Across Cambodia, there are over 1,000 schools with the same breakfast program.

This is part of the School Meal Program run by the World Food Program which has been running in the country for more than 10 years.

Kanitha Khong from the WFP says only certain schools are chosen.

“We select the schools based on the poverty indicator and the education performance indicator. This means the enrolment level is still very low, a high level of the drop out number, high repetition, and the fact that there are a lot of out of school children around the school. So this kind of school attracts children to come to school.”

The WFP says the program aims to tackle short-term hunger and improve students’ learning capacity.

Each morning, WFP provides rice, canned fish, vegetable oil and salt for students.

The school prepares the kitchen and a warehouse to keep the supplies and the community provides volunteers.

5th grade teacher Soam Nguon says the program has many benefits.

“With the program, students come early to school for breakfast, and afterwards we can start studying without any hassle. This can also reduce the costs of preparing breakfast for families at home.”

Thanks to the program, there’s been a reduction in school drop-out rates.

School principal Seak Vuthy takes me to the school garden... where they grow long beans, morning glory and other herbs.

The school has been with the free breakfast program for 5 years now and it’s aiming to set up its own home-grown feeding program.

“Without any support from the WFP, it’s hard to run the program. We get some support from the community, but it’s not that regular or sustainable. But with support, we can do this every day for the children.”

The breakfast program has reached more than 450 thousand primary school students across the country.

In the future, the government will take over the program and plans to have a national school-feeding program.

But Ou Putt Savan, the Deputy Director of Education in Siem Reap says it won’t happen anytime soon.

“For sure the program can be owned by the government... but it will take time, let’s say around 5 years.”

Until then, Rorm Shrey Theab and her friends can still enjoy their free breakfast...


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