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US extends support for school meals programme

The United States government has announced new support of US$27.4 million in funding for the school meals programme to help strengthen the Lao government’s national school meals initiative.
Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Mr Boualan Silipanya and US Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter, Country Representative for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Laos Sarah Gordon-Gibson, along with their development partners, yesterday officially launched the WFP’s new five-year school feeding programme.

The project builds on the success of the past nine years of US government funding that provided hot lunches to more than l40,000 schoolchildren in 30 districts of provinces including Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Saravan, Xekong and Attapeu.
These activities are funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme, which is providing US$27.4 million in agriculture commodities and funding to the UN World Food Programme in Laos to implement this new five-year project until 2022.
The new resources will be used to provide healthy school meals, which helps improve literacy and nutrition among schoolchildren in rural areas. Local farmers also benefit from the project and directly contribute to the academic success of the next generation of people from their communities.
Mr Boualan said the support of the US government and its people is a great contribution to the improvement of education in remote areas.
US Ambassador Rena Bitter said “We are excited to partner with the World Food Programme in Laos to launch a new phase of this important school feeding programme. Nothing is more important than children’s health and education - children represent the future of Laos and this programme helps more children to attend school and learn the skills they will need to succeed in the future.”
School meals have been demonstrated in Laos to increase school enrollment, improve nutrition, boost attendance and the ability to focus during class, and support learning.
By collaborating with the UN World Food Programme, the Ministry of Education and Sport and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the school meals project provides an extension service to smallholder farmers, particularly women, to increase their production and sell produce directly to schools, thus complementing children’s daily meals with diversified local and fresh foods. According to the US Embassy in Laos, this project is part of a comprehensive education initiative, working closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports and other partners, in which children also gain access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition education, and literacy activities.
Since 2006, the US Department of Agriculture’s donations through the McGovern-Dole programme have ensured that more than 25 million nutritious meals are served every school year to 145,000 children in schools in 30 districts across seven provinces. This new WFP project, as well as one other project that WFP manages and a school feeding project run by Catholic Relief Services, are all sponsored by the same US government programme. They combine to represent the largest US government civilian assistance programme in Laos.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
June 5,

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