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Kyrgyzstan hosts International Forum on School Feeding in CIS Countries

On November 23-24, the Administration of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States, with the support of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Russia’s Social Industrial and Foodservice Institute (SIFI), will hold the first CIS forum titled “School meals as overall development vector” in Bishkek.

Spearheaded by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Sadyr Japarov, the event aims to share experience in school feeding. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss and find ways to improve school meals' efficiency and quality, including involving parents and private businesses.

Thanks to the proposal of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, school feeding has, for the first time, become a subject of general interest and found its niche among the official events held as part of the country’s current chairmanship in the CIS.
“The issue of school feeding goes beyond just providing children with nutrients. It is also, as the experience of many countries shows, an effective tool of government support for agriculture and the development of local communities. For this reason, the leadership of the Kyrgyz Republic views school meals not only as a social task but also as a significant investment and stimulation of economic growth,” said Edil Baysalov, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Forum will bring together the heads of governments of the CIS member states and other interested countries, representatives of leading international institutions and organizations engaged in school feeding, scientists, experts, and commercial organizations.

The event will close with the adoption of a joint declaration to hold the “International Forum on School Feeding in the CIS Countries” on an annual basis. It is expected to become a traditional platform for meetings and the exchange of views on increasing the efficiency of school feeding-related programmes.
“The issue of school meals is undoubtedly urgent and will be of interest to the CIS member states that are taking action to ensure high-quality, safe, and well-balanced nutrition. During the Forum, representatives of relevant ministries will be able to present their experience in organizing school meals in their countries and make proposals for cooperation throughout the Commonwealth,” CIS Secretary General Sergei Lebedev said.
“The main goal of the National School Feeding Programme is to provide primary school children with healthy hot meals because it contributes greatly to building an effective learning environment and improving children’s academic performance,” noted the Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, Dogdurkul Kendirbaeva. “In recent years, the School Feeding Programme helped create employment opportunities and became an important safety net, especially for poor families living in rural areas.”
Since 2010, several CIS countries, with financial support from the donors through the UN World Food Programme, Mercy Corps, and technical support from the SIFI, have successfully implemented projects to modernize the national school feeding systems.
“As part of this Forum, we work to strengthen cooperation to achieve our common goal, i.e. to improve the health and nutrition of Kyrgyz schoolchildren. WFP and partners will continue to strengthen the country's potential through the National School Feeding Programme, reinforcing the links between schools and local farmers and thus promoting more sustainable food systems,” said Kojiro Nakai, WFP Representative and Country Director in the Kyrgyz Republic.
“School Feeding Programmes help address many socio-economic issues. These include strengthening children’s health, improving their academic progress, supporting families, and developing rural areas and local agricultural production. An integrated approach helps achieve many sustainable development goals, from fighting hunger to economic growth and strengthening partnerships at the interstate level,” added SIFI President Vladimir Chernigov.

By the early 2000s, the existing school feeding system gradually declined in most CIS countries. The material and technical base and infrastructure were obsolete and required a drastic update. The scientific, legal, financial, and economic foundation needed to be improved. The employment of skilled personnel and the involvement of the local agricultural producers and parents in organizing school meals was also an issue.

Each state has made significant progress in addressing these issues in recent years. Fundamental strategic documents have been adopted and implemented in Tajikistan and Armenia, and consistent work is being carried out in Belarus and the Kyrgyz Republic. On the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2020 and by decision of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, all primary school children in these countries started receiving free hot meals in 2023.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the School Feeding Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic. Thanks to sustainable funding from the donors, the country provided 888 schools with hot meals, established a Republican Competency Center for School Feeding to train school cooks, and a Production and Logistics Center to provide school canteens with organic, high-quality, locally produced foods.