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Aragatsotn joined the National School Feeding Programme in Armenia

Today UN WFP handed over the implementation of school feeding programme in Aragatsotn province to the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

The ceremony took place in Ashtarak School after Vardges Petrosyan and was attended by the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Armenia Arayik Harutyunyan, the WFP Country Director in Armenia Jelena Milosevic, representatives of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Armenia, SIFI and other international and non-governmental organizations working in the country.

Speakers shared the results of the Programme and their suggestions for its further successful implementation. Great attention was paid to the direct participation of parents to improve the quality of school meals.

"Once a year we meet in a new marz, which goes into the National School Feeding Programme. Today we have the sixth handover of the marz. And the line is already visible when all the marzes of the country will be covered by the National School Feeding Programme. At the next stages of the Programme I would like to propose to strengthen the role of parents and the public in school meals organization. Until parents understand that eating at home and eating at school is one chain - one process of strengthening and improving the child's health, our efforts will be in vain," said Vladimir Chernigov, SIFI president.

About Marz Aragatsotn
Aragatsotn became the sixth marz, which joined the National School Feeding Programme after Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, Vayots Dzor and Ararat.

There are 117 schools in the marz, but only 79 of them participated in the UN WFP "School Feeding Development" project. The rest of the schools could not ensure the safety of preparing school meals due to the lack of necessary sanitary conditions of canteens.

Thanks to the support of WFP and local non-governmental organizations (CoAF, FAR), it was possible to increase the number of schools that will be included in the National School Feeding Programme. Now there are 100 of schools. 6111 primary school students will receive delicious hot breakfasts or lunches prepared at the re-equipped kitchens according to all the rules and safety and quality regulations.

The Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Armenia Arayik Harutyunyan said: "For the successful implementation of the Programme it is very important that all the stakeholders participate actively: all those who manage the Programme and the school teachers and parents. It is also important to create an environment: local producers and entrepreneurs should be involved in the process".

Russian help
The gradual implementation of the National School Feeding Programme throughout Armenia was possible thanks to the financial support of the Russian Federation, which since 2010 has been financing the UN WFP School Feeding Development project.

Extensive work has been done over the years: with the technical support of SIFI experts, the current state of the infrastructure of school canteens in seven regions of the country has been assessed, plans have been prepared for the restoration of school canteens and their re-equipment with modern Russian equipment. To learn how to work on it, school cooks attended trainings specially prepared for these tasks. The school cooks not only significantly increase their skills in preparing safe and tasty school lunches, but also learn to develop balanced and varied diets for children.

Thanks to a new contribution of the Russian Federation in the amount of $ 18 million to the UN WFP fund for the implementation of the final stage of the project, by 2023 all marzes of the country should go to the National School Feeding Programme. The canteens of 474 schools in Gegharkunik, Lori, Armavir and Kotayk will be brought into proper sanitary and hygienic condition and reequipped with new equipment.

"A comprehensive approach is needed to organize school meals, therefore, it is necessary to develop new mechanisms to improve the quality of school meals, for example, greenhouses, support farmers, and involve parents of schoolchildren," said Vladimir Kovalenko, deputy director of the Department for International Financial Relations, Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.

Greenhouse for sustainable school feeding
The work of partners does not end with the the Programme handover to the Government. Currently, WFP is building a greenhouse at the Vardges Petrosyan School to maintain the sustainability of school meals. The greenhouse will be open in early December. They plan to grow tomatoes in the ground, and strawberry according to hydroponic technology. Also, solar panels have been installed under this project, to use the "green energy" for maintaining a special climate in the greenhouse and operating energy-intensive equipment in the school canteen. The greenhouse will also be used for educational purposes to teach children how to grow fruits and vegetables. In the future, WFP plans to organize such models in other schools.

In addition to the greenhouse, the guests of the event were shown repaired school canteen, where they tasted school meals for the company with the small beneficiaries of the Programme - primary school students.

"Thanks to the long-standing partnership with the Government of Armenia and the constant support from the Russian Federation, the school feeding programme in Armenia sets a perfect example of what can happen when we all work together towards one common goal: helping a new generation realise its full potential and push its country's future forward," said Jelena Milosevic.