The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education (MOE) announce the resumption of the School Meals Programme, targeting 127,000 students in nine of Liberia’s 15 counties.
WFP Head of School Meals Programme, Mr. Johnson Kolubah, says: The WFP Country Office has been working on the commodity procurement and shipment to begin school meals for the targeted 127,000 beneficiaries including 4,000 girls who receive take home rations to encourage them remain in school. Food distribution to schools will start in the first week of November following the signing of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) or operational plan between WFP and the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The school meals activity under the current WFP Country Programme was largely supported by the United States Department of Agriculture under the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition FY 2013 Award – a three-year grant from 2014 to 2016.
The grant ended in December 2016 leading temporary break in feeding for WFP assisted schools in February 2017. The break in feeding resulted in about 29% drop in daily attendance at the schools supported by WFP between March and June.
School feeding is an important intervention that encourages daily school attendance. During an outcome monitoring survey conducted by WFP and MOE in May this year, many parents and school administrators reported that the smoke from the school kitchen is a sign of food being prepared at the schools and thus, encourages students to attend each day they see smoke at the school.
In August 2017, WFP mobilized limited resources to resume the school meals programme for four months in the nine (9) targeted counties: Gbapolu, Nmba, Bassa, Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, RiverGee, Grand Kru and Maryland, respectively.
WFP Liberia’s Deputy Country Director, Asif Bhutto, says WFP is deeply concerned about the prevailing funding constraints for the school meals programme. “We are reaching out to all development partners and engaging our donors inside and outside of Liberia in an effort to mobilize additional resources to continue with school meal beyond four months” In preparation for the resumption of the meals programme, MOE and WFP in late September 2017 conducted the county stakeholders’ training on a regional basis for 153 persons, including County Education Officers, District Education Officers, District Supervising Principals, County School Feeding Coordinators, District School Feeding Focal Persons and WFP school meals Focal Persons from all nine WFP-supported counties.
Importantly, WFP and MOE have also planned community and school-level training targeting 2,344 principals, food managers (school record keepers), cooks and Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) members. The training will be conducted in November and will focus on the roles of these actors in the school meals programme implementation and management at the school and community level.
The school meals programme enhances enrolment and attendance while at the same time it improves retention and assists parents cope with the stress of providing daily lunch money to their children. Press Release