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School Meals Programme in Armenia celebrates its 10 Years Anniversary

On December 18, 2020, Armenia celebrated the 10th anniversary of the School Feeding Programme. All these years the UN World Food Programme experts, with the technical support by SIFI and funding provided by the Russian Federation, have been doing their best to make nutritious, tasty, hot school meals more available to young Armenian school students.

Russian officials, representatives of SIFI, WFP, and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Republic of Armenia held an online meeting on the anniversary date. They discussed the achieved results and made plans for the future.

Victor Vasiliev, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies in Rome, opened the meeting: “School feeding remains the core of our partnership with the UN WFP. This year Russia has allocated substantial sums to support school meal programs in different countries: $11,2 million for Tajikistan, $20 million for Syria, $10 million for Jordan, Cuba, and Nicaragua. The fact that the UN WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 proves the importance of the Programme and the global recognition of our efforts.”

Armenian project was the first one to be funded by Russia. It lay the foundation for long-term and fruitful cooperation of Russia with the World Food Progarmme.

“The Armenian project demonstrates the unique combination of sustainable long-term Russian investments and the effective cooperation of SIFI, UN WFP, and the Armenian Government. We welcome the new Russian law guaranteeing hot meals for schoolchildren. Russia has recently become the leading supporter of school feeding projects both nationally and globally”, emphasized Carmen Burbano, the UN WFP School Feeding Division Director.

Carmen Burbano reminded that 17 million children all over the world were deprived of school meals when schools were closed in April and May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to compensate for these meals, WFP offered alternative support providing food vouchers and food baskets.

Armenian school canteens were also closed, so WFP, together with the Armenian Government, launched a support program for 26 453 primary school students: their families got 8 000 drams each. Besides, in December 2020, 100 000 schoolchildren received food supplies to cover the meals they missed in the first semester.

SIFI representatives - President Vladimir Chernigov and Head of the International Cooperation Department Elena Bolotnikova - spoke about the development stages of the school feeding project. They also mentioned the new training center where future cooks learn basic rules of working in school canteens, and the school cookbook published by SIFI. A lot has been achieved over the past decade, as the program was gradually and successfully expanding.

Nanna Scau, the Deputy Director of the UN WFP Country Office in Armenia added that during these ten years WFP, using the funds provided by the Russian Federation, has provided schools with 23 000 tons of food supplies and employed 1700 cook assistants; 534 canteens have been renovated and reequipped.

Janna Andreasyan, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of the Republic of Armenia, shared school meal program development plans for the next few years. The Ministry started developing a new strategy for school feeding; it is implementing a digital system of school meals control, monitoring and assessment and launching a new short-term training course for those involved in providing hot meals for children.

It is important to note that the Ministry is going to introduce a new school financing system providing stable salaries for cooks, which will enhance the sustainability of the program.

Zhanna Andreasyan reminded that the children of Nagorno-Karabakh need special attention. The war made them vulnerable, and they their rights should be protected with special care. Armenian officials are looking for ways to support them and make nutritious meals available to them.

At the moment, the national school feeding program covers six Armenian marzes (provinces): Ararat, Vayots Dzor, Syunik, Tavush, Shirak, Aragatsotn. Within the next three years, the state will provide hot meals for schoolchildren in four other marzes: Gegharkunik, Lori, Armavir, and Kotayk.