The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Government of Sri Lanka welcome a funding of CAD 1 million (Rs.151 million) from Global Affairs Canada, to help smallholder farmers cultivate nutritious crops for the National School Meal Programme.
Responding to the impacts of COVID-19, the Home Grown School Feeding project will provide nutritious and safe school meals to vulnerable primary school children by linking the National School Meal Programme with local smallholder farmers.
The project will benefit an estimated 1,700 female farmers and 170,000 children in several districts across the Northern, Eastern and North Central provinces.
The Home Grown School Feeding project is an innovative approach and the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. It is designed to boost the local economy and improve the nutritional status of communities in regions with poor nutrition standards and high levels of poverty.
By purchasing produce for the school meals from local smallholder farmers residing in the vicinity of the schools, the project creates a predictable outlet for farmers and a stable income while stimulating local production of nutrient-dense crops.
The funding from Canada will benefit an estimated 170,000 primary grade schoolchildren, who receive free meals in school, by ensuring that the meals provided are nutritious, diverse, fresh and culturally appropriate. The meals are also an incentive for families to send their children, especially girls, to school. The project focuses on empowering women and contributing to gender equality. The smallholder farmers selected for the project will be primarily women, mostly mothers of the schoolchildren, from some of the poorest households, who have been hard hit by COVID-19’s impact on food systems.
The project includes community engagement and behaviour change campaigns to address disproportionate workload and care responsibilities placed on women, while enhancing nutrition education and promoting better eating habits. The project will also assist in building resilience of farmers to recurring climate shocks by boosting the productivity of family farms. “Canada is pleased to re-engage with the WFP in supporting the Government of Sri Lanka to improve nutrition among schoolchildren and food security in Sri Lanka, both of which were negatively impacted by Covid-19,” said Canadian High Commissioner David McKinnon.
“This is great for Sri Lanka’s agricultural self-sufficiency and for girls’ retention in schools, especially in these COVID times.”
“Sri Lanka welcomes Canada’s support to supplement the current nutrition programme for schoolchildren,” said Women and Child Development, Preschool and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and School Services State Minister Piyal Nishantha De Silva. “We invest considerable resources in the National School Meal Programme and we welcome the WFP’s assistance to make it more effective and sustainable. This programme will also boost local economies and help alleviate poverty among rural communities.”
“COVID-19 has highlighted vulnerabilities within our food systems and calls for urgent interventions to strengthen the path of food from farm to table,” said WFP Sri Lanka Deputy Country Director Andrea Berardo.
“Part of the solution lies in creating a formal structure to place smallholder farmers at the centre of food systems, ensuring that regular supply meets regular demand. By harnessing the WFP’s expertise in food and nutrition, the Home Grown School Feeding project creates diverse benefits to improve the livelihoods and nutrition standards among entire communities.”
The WFP has been supporting the National School Meal Programme since 2003, to improve nutrition standards among schoolchildren. Canada has been one of the largest contributors to Sri Lanka’s School Meal Programme, providing funds in excess of CAD 10 million (Rs.1.5 billion) to the WFP from 2003 to 2017, benefitting over 450,000 children.
This latest funding from the Government of Canada enables the WFP to augment its support to the programme and contributes towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.