CAR government expands school meals to boost food production and help children learn and grow 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 March 2024:

The Government of the Central African Republic (C.A.R) in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has announced a nationwide expansion of the homegrown school meals programme targeting 400,000 children across the country.

The plan was announced on Friday last week by President Faustin Archange Touadera during the commemoration of Africa Day of School Feeding at Sainte Philomene primary school in Bimbo, near C.A.R’s capital, Bangui.

“Education and the wellbeing of Central African children have always been on top of our priorities. Today, I am very happy to launch the homegrown school meals programme as one of the key components of our national social protection strategy,” said President Faustin Archange Touadera.

“Together with our partners, we must break the cycle of food insecurity and malnutrition through a multisectoral and multi-actor approach integrating education, health, nutrition and agriculture with a focus on smallholder famers”.

Based on locally grown and/or sourced food from smallholder farmers and traders, the national homegrown school meals programme aims to provide safe and nutritious school meals to Central African children, increasing its coverage to 400,000 school children by 2027, up from 150,000 in 2023.

In many countries around the world, homegrown school meals have helped boost local food production and consumption, creating demand for more diverse and nutritious food while stimulating the local economy and strengthening food systems.

The programme plays a vital role in building and strengthening sustainable national food systems, linking farmers with traders and school children. Furthermore, the programme is particularly transformative for women as it contributes to creating more jobs for them as cooks, food packers, quality control agents, processors and transporters.

“Homegrown school meals are a game-changer. WFP lauds the Central African Government leadership in adopting a programme that goes beyond nourishing the next generation, to creating jobs, economic growth, and longer-term development for the entire country,” said Houssainou Tall, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in CAR.

“We are committed to supporting the Government and working with partners to ensure Central African children have access to nutritious food and quality education and learning when they go to school”.

WFP has been providing school meals to 170,000 children throughout the country using either cash or imported food. The programme has helped schoolchildren and teachers focus better in class, while providing a vital safety net for families in a country where 2.2 million people or 36 percent of the population face acute hunger due to conflict, population displacement and widespread poverty.

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