Latest news

SIFI participates in St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2023

The 26th St. Petersburg Economic Forum took place under the aegis of Roscongress Foundation from June 14 to 17, 2023. Throughout the years, the forum has become a leading global platform for business community members to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.

As part of the event, SIFI President Vladimir Chernigov chaired a session titled “Social support projects as economic development drivers” on June 15 to speak on the projects aimed at improving school meals in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

In over 13 years, much work has been done to restore and improve school feeding in these countries. Exceptional results were achieved in collaboration with key partners: WFP, UN FAO, and others. These include, for instance, the gradual transfer of school feeding programs from external funding to the management of the national governments in Armenia and Tajikistan.

The session focused on how a well-organized school feeding system can boost the development of the country's economy.

The speakers were:

Denis Gribov — Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation

Oleg Kobyakov— Director of the FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Satenik Mkrtchyan – head of the School Feeding and Child Welfare Agency, Armenia

Adham Musallam — WFP Representative and Country Director in Tajikistan

Kojiro Nakai — WFP Representative and Country Director in Kyrgyzstan

Nanna Skau— WFP Representative and Country Director in Armenia


Armenia has achieved the best results of all the countries where WFP projects are being implemented. The handover ceremony of the School Feeding Programme in the last two marzes of Armenia to the management of the government will take place in Yerevan in early July.

According to Nanna Skau, WFP Representative and Country Director in Armenia, one of the priorities now is to provide school meals to children in Yerevan. “The problem is not only overcrowded schools but also lack of food culture – the children eat on the run, consume much junk food, and are not educated in terms of healthy eating.”

Ms. Skau emphasizes that it is not only at school where children eat meals. Therefore, educating them about food culture and proper eating habits is vital. Moreover, it is necessary to tell parents about the importance of children’s engagement in the cooking processes in the kitchen.

“We will participate in the modernization of 1,500 school canteens, and we believe that touring the renovated canteens is a great opportunity for children to take part in this activity and find out what equipment and products are used in school canteens,” she said.

The National School Feeding Programme currently impacts more than 100 thousand children in the Republic of Armenia. School canteens are repaired, and many schools have plots where children can grow vegetables and fruits that are eventually served to them.

The comprehensive school feeding programme changes schoolchildren’s lives and positively affects their health and academic performance. It also helps involve local food producers and generate employment, especially for female school cooks who receive training and job.

“In rural areas, the school becomes a center of development that unites children, their parents, food producers, and local entrepreneurs. Even the smallest school transforms the lives of people living in the village. By investing in school canteens, we are expanding the program and bringing it to the national level,” Ms. Skau highlighted.

The head of the School Feeding and Child Welfare Agency, Satenik Mkrtchyan, said the Agency teamed up with SIFI to create professional certified courses for training school chefs. The work in this direction has already begun in the Tambov educational training center. “I would like to note that bilateral work formats are conducive. We are creating new practices of cooperation,” she concluded.


By the beginning of the WFP project, the country already had an operating National School Feeding Programme, and the government allocated budgetary funds for the purpose. However, the money was only enough for a bun and tea. The School Feeding Programme needed optimization. Since 2013, WFP, with the technical assistance of SIFI, has been actively helping schools to provide primary school children with nutritious and hot meals and creating the necessary conditions for this: repair and re-equipment of school catering facilities, drafting of well-balanced school menus, and training of school cooks.

WFP Country Director in the Kyrgyz Republic, Kojiro Nakai, noted: “Modernization of school kitchens and canteens and improvement of school menus are among our top priorities. We learn from Russia’s experience and hope to reach the level of our colleagues in Armenia. A logistics center was established in the Kadamjay district to become the connecting link between farmers and school feeding. The center is equipped with refrigerators and a mobile laboratory for checking the quality of products. We no longer need to contact wholesalers or distribution networks. Several years ago, a similar center opened near Bishkek.”

There are 1,660 school canteens and 653 cafeterias operating nationwide. Over 440,000 children in grades 1 to 4 receive meals. About 590 million soms are annually allocated from the republican budget for the provision of hot meals. Also, a Recipe Book was published as part of the School Feeding Programme. It contains more than 130 recipes, considering the nutritional requirements of children, local traditions, preferences, and food availability in the region.


In Tajikistan, WFP implements one of the largest humanitarian operations, which initially included the delivery of food kits to schools for preparing meals for children. A National School Feeding Programme was launched in 2012.

Adham Musallam, WFP Country Director in Tajikistan, noted that providing school meals is not just feeding children at school; it is a platform where Tajikistan benefits greatly from a joint project with Russia. School cooks are trained to prepare diverse and healthy dishes for schoolchildren; bakeries are established in rural areas to provide children with fresh bread, and school greenhouses are installed to produce fresh vegetables.

“The hot school meals programme in Tajikistan impacts half a million schoolchildren and covers almost 2,000 schools. The government of Tajikistan has allocated an additional $500,000 for the development of school feeding in the country.”

FAO projects as aid to school feeding

In Armenia, the FAO-allocated funds were used to establish school orchards and vegetable gardens, thus helping schools improve the quality of meals, sell the surplus, and garner additional finances for school feeding.

In Kyrgyzstan, the construction of a logistics center contributed to creating a sustainable food supply system for school meals and other social institutions.

In Tajikistan, greenhouses with drip irrigation, which the country needed badly, were installed. School playgrounds have become platforms for innovations and experience exchange.

To conclude the session, Vladimir Chernigov commented on the proposal of the President of Kyrgyzstan, which he, as a representative of the CIS chair country, submitted to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Sadyr Japarov offered to discuss the possibility of holding the Forum on School Meals in CIS Countries by the end of 2023.

“When an issue is transnationalized, it acquires a completely different interpretation and development prospects. I think it is possible to make it a tradition for each country holding CIS chairmanship to organize such meetings in this format,” Mr. Chernigov remarked.

For each country, economic sustainability issues are vital, according to SIFI President. School meals should be based on a transparent economy and a specialized regulatory framework, not just on one-off initiatives or projects. During such forum, Uzbekistan, where all primary school children receive meals free of charge, and the Republic of Belarus will be able to share their experience in school feeding. To draw the attention of government leaders to the importance of school meals, its impact on demographics and the quality of human capital, which is now more important than ever, should be employed.