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1st International Forum on School Feeding in CIS Countries kicks off in Bishkek

The first-ever Forum on School Feeding in CIS Countries with the motto “School meals as overall development vector” commenced in Bishkek on November 23.

Spearheaded by the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Sadyr Japarov, the event aims to share experience in implementing school feeding programmes. It was organized by 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).

The forum brought together the Minister of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic, Dogdurkul Kendirbaeva, the UN WFP Representative and Country Director in the Kyrgyz Republic, Kojiro Nakai, officials from the Ministries of Education of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia, as well as representatives of leading international institutions, experts in the field of education and private sector.

The event organizers emphasized that significant progress has been achieved in each country in terms of school feeding practices in recent years.

"I should mention the positive results in the Kyrgyz Republic. The country was the only CIS member state where state funding for school meals remained uninterrupted. It is crucial regardless of the amount allocated: financing mechanisms were preserved, and funds were assigned to regions, administrations, and schools. When a mechanism is lost, restoring it is even harder than repairing a school,” remarked Vladimir Chernigov, the President of the Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute.

According to Minister Kendirbaeva, the UN World Food Programme provided significant support for introducing and improving school feeding in Kyrgyzstan.

“The School Meals Optimization Programme was launched ten years ago. Today’s forum marks the anniversary of this cooperation. Thanks to the collaboration between government agencies, the parent community, and international organizations in Kyrgyzstan, a sustainable school feeding policy has been developed. In conditions of poverty, we succeeded in building an excellent environment and infrastructure,” the minister said.

The Minister also announced the intention to boost state financing for school feeding. “We will be asking for an increase in funding for school meals during today's budget hearings. We anticipate receiving a favorable response," she said.

It is noteworthy that about 600 thousand children are currently provided with school meals in Kyrgyzstan.

The Minister voiced confidence that the forum would become a traditional platform for meeting and exchanging views on increasing the efficiency of school feeding programmes.

The UN WFP Representative and Country Director in the Kyrgyz Republic, Kojiro Nakai, described the forum as historical: “This is the first forum of the kind. The issue we are discussing here has an important social aspect. Therefore, it is crucial that Commonwealth countries establish cooperation on school feeding matters, exchange experiences, and explore new methods and tools in organizing and improving school meals.”

Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation, Denis Gribov, informed that recently, the possibility of creating a base platform for school feeding in CIS countries was discussed during a meeting of the CIS Education Council and that Russia can share relevant experience.

“We have maintained a system of organizing hot meals for children in educational institutions since the Soviet period. In terms of the provision of equipment, the approach has also been preserved. The constituent entities of the Russian Federation possess a unique experience. It is not the same everywhere, but we are ready to share it for training personnel and building the management and organizational structure of school feeding,” he said.

The forum agenda also included two roundtable discussions. The participants discussed their experience in creating logistics centers and studied Kyrgyzstan's policy on school feeding.

Further, showcase events were held at schools No. 70, 69, and 64, where CIS countries’ representatives familiarized themselves with the school infrastructure, menu, and ways to educate schoolchildren and parents about healthy and well-balanced nutrition.

During a visit to the Republican Competency Center recently established at the Razzakov Kyrgyz State Technical University, the guests learned how school cooks are trained and improve their skills, including annual chef competitions and cooking battles.

The forum will continue on November 24 at the Ala-Archa state residence with the participation of Deputy Chairman of the Kyrgyz Cabinet of Ministers Edil Baisalov, Deputy Secretary General of the CIS Denis Trefilov, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kyrgyzstan Antje Grawe, UN WFP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific John Aylieff, representatives of CIS countries, international organizations, heads of government agencies and experts in the field of school feeding.

Based on the results of this forum, a Joint Declaration is expected to be adopted to hold the International Forum on School Feeding in CIS Countries annually.