The government has announced that it will expand a cooked school meal programme to reach 400,000 children of 2,000 schools at 16 upazilas.
The programme was successfully piloted by the World Food Programme (WFP), said a media release today.
That pilot, started in 2013, gives school children fresh, hot school meals in Bamna and Islampur upazilas. Locally-sourced fresh vegetables are included along with lentils and micronutrient-fortified rice and oil.
The pilot has shown that these fresh meals are a cost-effective approach to combat micronutrient deficiency.
“We thank the government for their initiative to transition from fortified biscuits to fresh, hot meals. Nutritious meals for school children have a high return on investment, as they improve children’s health and productivity throughout their life,” said Richard Ragan, WFP Representative and Country Director, at a school meals policy consultation in Dhaka today.
The expansion, funded by the Bangladesh government, represents a US$20 million investment in the future health and productivity of these students. In addition, for the first time, the government will contribute US$3.6 million to support WFP-implemented school feeding in impoverished schools in the country. This contribution will help WFP reach over 172,000 school children in 2019.
WFP’s efforts complement the government-led school feeding programme in poverty prone areas, which reaches over 2.7 million children per year. WFP provides technical assistance to this programme, with an aim to reach more children than ever before.
Micronutrient deficiencies present a huge challenge to Bangladesh, with economic losses to malnutrition estimated at US$1 billion per year.
Healthy, fresh, locally-sourced meals that provide adequate macro and micronutrients for school children are a major step towards ensuring a prosperous future for all Bangladeshis.