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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Germany’s Support Set to Transform School Meals in Laos

This Week

A new agreement signed by the Ministry of Education and Sports today formalizes support from the Federal Republic of Germany to the country’s largest social safety net: school meals. Support to local agriculture for a steady supply of food to schools, driven by a partnership with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), aims to create a positive cycle of rural poverty reduction centered around local schools.

Since the early 2000s, the government has worked on improving primary school enrolment and retention rates with the help of food, a great incentive for education for many rural families in Laos. School meal programs are currently operating in about 25 percent of primary schools around the country, benefitting close to 250,000 children, but external support is needed to uphold the programs in many areas.

“There are many points that speak on behalf of school meals, which our government attaches high importance to. Our Ministry’s Education and Sports Sector Development Plan 2021-2025 acknowledges the key role that school meals play in reducing inequalities in education by enhancing enrolment, attendance, and learning outcomes. School meals are also one of the 22 key priority interventions of our Government’s National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and National Plan of Action on Nutrition 2021-2025,” said Soulioudong Soundara, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports.

The newly launched support aims to build a supply system linking local farmers to school meals for a steady supply of fresh ingredients for school meals that benefit not only children from a nutritional and educational standpoint but also farmers by creating economic opportunities. This is expected to form a mutually reinforcing cycle that, together with budgetary support from the Government and rice contributions from the families, create stable, durable and locally managed school meals programs. The project also has a strong gender component that aims to empower women. In addition, it promotes climate-smart practices among smallholder farmers and equips schools with energy-efficient cooking solutions.

The support for Laos’ school meals through Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development underscores the importance of international cooperation in addressing global challenges related to food security, nutrition and education.

“Last year, Germany adopted guidelines for a feminist foreign and feminist development policy. The project Accelerating School Meals in Laos, which was designed by the World Food Program to support girls and young women in particular, fits perfectly into these guidelines. Another reason why the Federal Government is financially supporting this important program is that it aims to achieve climate-smart and green food production in the spirit of a climate responsible strategy,” said Annette Knobloch, German Ambassador to Laos.

“Germany’s generous support is framed by WFP’s global efforts to transform food systems and strengthen human capital in countries such as Laos. We also aim to improve health and nutrition awareness for students in rural schools, so that the next generation can make choices that equip them for a happy and productive future,” said Jacqueline de Groot, WFP Country Director and Representative.

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