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SIFI President V. Chernigov and Director on International Cooperation E. Bolotnikova visited pilot schools under the School Feeding Programme in Kyrgyzstan

The beginning of the school year is an excellent reason to visit pilot schools and see the School Feeding Programme in process.

With this aim, SIFI President Vladimir Chernigov and Director on International Cooperation Elena Bolotnikova went to Kyrgyzstan, where they visited two schools in Issyk-Ata district of Chui region: Novopokrovskaya secondary school №1 and №3.

How the schools became pilot
At school №1 there are 1045 students. 431 of them receive hot meals. The price of the school menu is 10-11 (sometimes 12) som per day for a child and includes five meals a day. Seven som from this sum are allocated from the republican budget, the rest are contributions from parents.

Initially the school was supposed to be replicative. In 2015 there was current repair in school canteen: the electrician was replaced and sewerage conducted. But school needed equipment for preparing school meals. So it was decided to include it in the school feeding programme and equip with new modern equipment.

At school №3 557 children receive hot meals. The school canteen was also repaired. Thanks to financial assistance of ayil okmotu (village council) the wiring was replaced and sewerage conducted. Aiyl okmotu also contributed in purchase of equipment.

What the project participants say
Last year in june WFP UN jointly with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic launched a pilot project of the school feeding programme in school №1 and №3. According to the head of ayil okmotu Mirlan Chubakovich Kydykeev: "All of us studied in primary school, and the Government provided us with hot meals: compote, sour cream, first course, second course. I am very glad that thanks to donors, our children also have come to the same and started receiving hot meals."

The headmaster of the school №1 Chinara Modylovna notes that the program has been successfully realized for the second year thanks to the joint work of all participants: representatives of the local administration, the district committee of educators, the district education department that supervises nutrition issues, the heads of aiyl okmotu and, of course, parents.

"The model of hot school meals has been launched since last year. And we continue to work on improving school meals. After all, the nutrition of children is the foundation of a healthy generation. Their future success, their health and development in many ways depends on how they eat during school years."

What parents say
Parents respond positively on the programme: "My great granddaughter went to the first grade this year and received hot meals. Everything is good, thank you. If something is needed from us, we are ready to help and provide all possible assistance."

"My granddaughter is in fourth grade. The school canteen is clean and tidy, parents like everything there. Granddaughter loves porridge. She doesn't eat it at home, but at school she eats it with pleasure."

What challenges schools have to face
When Andrea Bagnoli, country director of WFP in Kyrgyzstan, asked the headmaster what were the main difficulties in organizing school feeding, she replied:

"There are no special difficulties. The main thing is desire to do something and support that is provided to us. When there is a task we just solve it".

There can be difficulties with product purchasing. For example, some contractors are not honest enough and can deliver spread (with vegetable oil) instead of real butter.

The problem is that the tender is prepared and conducted by the Local Education Authority. But products are brought by suppliers straight to school. So the school does not know the details of the procurement conditions and has to accept what is being brought. "

When there is a low-quality product, the headmaster returns it to the supplier. And the dish from school menu is replaced by another one.

How parents help
A large finance contribution to the purchase of products is made by parents. They formed a committee and created a joint account. On the collected money they buy the missing products. Also, the school graduates, who are currently engaged in farming, help with products.

But not all the parents wanted to invest their money in school meals. But when they were invited to school, showed the canteen and the benefits of hot meals for their children, they agreed and began to help.

Many parents refuse school meals because of religious beliefs, pointing out that the food is not halal.

Sometimes they are not sure about the quality work of the cook. But in vain. Cooks at school are real masters. Before starting to work in the school canteen they all completed special trainings.

Low-income families don't pay school meals. The other parents know about this, and basically don't object. All these issues are discussed at parent meetings, where collective decisions are made.

Children, of course, don't know whose parents pay and whose parents don't. Therefore, no one feels uncomfortable or any shame that the parents did not give money. Some parents instead of paying work part-time in the school canteen or in the school itself.

This is how the School Meals Optimisation Programme is implemented in Kyrgyzstan, bringing great benefits to the health of a little student and to the health and economic growth of a whole nation! After all, a useful hot lunch is a guarantee that children go to school with pleasure, get knowledge and implement them, growing up professionals, earning money and improving their country economy.