VIENTIANE, Lao PDR – U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter joined Vice Minister of Education Mr. Boualarn Silipanya and Country Representative for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Laos Sarah Gordon-Gibson on June 4, 2018, for the official launch of WFP’s new five-year school feeding activity that is funded by the U.S. Government. This project is designed to build on the success of the past nine years of U.S. Government funding that provided hot lunches to 140,000 Lao school children while helping strengthen the Lao Government’s National School Meals program.
These activities are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which is providing US$ 27.4 million in agriculture commodities and funding to UN World Food Programme in Laos to implement this new five-year project in seven Lao provinces – Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Saravan, Sekong, and Attapeu. The new resources will be used to provide healthy school meals, which helps improve literacy and nutrition among school children in rural areas, at the same time that local farmers are benefitting from the program and directly contributing to the academic success of the next generation of people from their communities.
“We’re excited to partner with World Food Programme in Laos to launch a new phase of this important school feeding program. Nothing is more important than children’s health and education – children represent the future of Laos and this program helps ensure that more children can attend school and learn skills they will need to succeed in the future,” said U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter.
School meals have been demonstrated in Laos to increase school enrollment, improve nutrition, boost attendance and ability to focus during class, and support learning. By partnering with UN World Food Programme, the Ministry of Education and Sport and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the school meals project provides extension services to smallholder farmers, particularly women, to increase their production and sell produce directly to the schools, thus complementing children’s daily meals with diversified local, fresh foods.
This project is part of a comprehensive education initiative, working closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports and other partners, in which children also gain access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition education, and literacy activities. Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s donations through the McGovern-Dole program have ensured that more than 25 million nutritious meals are served every school year to 145,000 children in schools in 30 districts across seven provinces. This new WFP project, as well as one other project that WFP manages and a school feeding project run by Catholic Relief Services, are all sponsored by the same U.S. Government program, and they combine to represent the largest U.S. Government civilian assistance program in Laos.