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Partners and donors Coordination Meeting was carried out in Armenia on the transition of Gegharkunik and Lori to the National School Feeding Programme

On May 25, in Vanadzor, Lori Marz, UN WFP, SIFI and “School Feeding and Child Welfare” Agency held the Coordination Meeting to attract partners and potential donors to assist in the transition of schools to the National School Feeding Programme.

This year, two more marzes are joining the programme: Gegharkunik and Lori. This means that from the moment of entering the programme, school meals in two more marzes will be fully funded by the Government of Armenia.

Currently, primary school students in Armenia are fed in schools according to two programmes. Since 2010, with the assistance of WFP and SIFI, the programme "Development of Sustainable School Feeding" has been implemented. And since 2014, the Government of Armenia launched the National School Feeding Programe to gradually switch to full state funding of school meals for all students in the country.

Since its launch, the National Programme has undergone major changes and made significant progress in its implementation. School meals in six out of ten marzes (about 600 schools and 50,000 beneficiaries) are funded by the state. WFP supports 412 schools and 50,000 beneficiaries in the remaining four marzes. All of this would not have been possible without the close collaboration of WFP, government and local authorities, SIFI and schools.

Gegharkunik and Lori are preparing to join the National Programme this year. For this, schools need to establish the infrastructure of canteens, somewhere to make repairs, somewhere to lay engineering communications. But not all schools can solve these problems on their own. The coordination meeting was just initiated in order to enlist the support of potential donors and partners in the restoration of school infrastructure for the transition to the programme.

“It is important for all the involved stakeholders to understand that investing in school feeding means investing in human capital. During the past decade, the School Feeding Programme became a solid foundation in Armenia that invests effectively in development of human capital. The newly established “transformative” component of the Programme (establishing greenhouses and intensive orchards, installing solar panels) further invests in self-sufficiency of the schools and food security of schoolchildren. All of the efforts the partners put in the programme are aimed at having a nationally owned and sustainable school feeding programme in Armenia”, — noted WFP deputy country director Nanna Skau.

The implementation of the School Feeding Programme in Gegharkunik will be transferred for state funding in September 2021. The marz was supposed to be handed over to the Government back in 2020. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the transmission had to be postponed. Children received hot meals in the form of food baskets. But on the other hand, over an additional year, the marz had the opportunity to fully prepare schools for the transition to the programme to state ownership. Currently, there are only a few schools in Gegharkunik that are undergoing renovations.

In Lori marz, WFP continues to rehabilitate infrastructure in preparation for the handover. 72 schools in Lori are being renovated. In addition to the programme, 17 schools in Lori have been installed with solar panels and in many more intensive orchards and greenhouses are being established. These initiatives are very important as the agricultural projects. They not only diversify the school diet but also provide basic knowledge and skills to the schoolchildren (as they frequently learn how to take care of the crops).

Despite the successes, most schools still need to renovate kitchens and canteens, purchase appropriate equipment, and build utility lines in some schools. We are sure that the coordination meeting will bear fruit and schoolchildren of two more marzes will receive high-quality hot meals in the renovated and equipped school canteens.

The conference was attended by about 30 representatives of international and local organizations: UNDP, FAO, Children of Armenia Fund, World Vision, All Armenian Fund, Armenian Caritas. Welcoming speeches were delivered by Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Zhanna Andreasyan, Governor of Lori, Aram Khachatryan and Deputy Director of the WFP Country Office, Nanna Skau.