More than 270,000 students are once again being provide with breakfast after the government reopened schools across the country. The programme is said to contribute to education by increasing student attendance, attention spans and capabilities in the classroom.

According to the Social Protection in Cambodia, organised under the National Social Protection Council the programme, which provides meals for students of households classified as poor or vulnerable, has resumed just months after schools nationwide were allowed to reopen late last year.

Students are able to enthusiastically participate in class studies because of the “Home Grown School Feeding Programme that provides nutritious meals to more than 270,000 students from 1,113 schools across the country on a daily basis,” it said.

“This programme has offered nutritious hot breakfasts for more than 270,000 students every morning while also helping to promote agricultural products from the local community because the vegetables and meat provided to the programmme are home grown in surrounding communities,” according to the press release.

The government says its programme provides free breakfasts daily to more than 50,000 students from 290 schools, as compared to 220,000 students at 823 schools who are currently being fed by the UN’s World Food Programme.

Ros Soveacha, spokesman for the education ministry, said on May 1 that good nutrition improves the quality of learning by students as well as improving their quality of life.

“In this sense, the ministry welcomes and thanks our development partners and institutions such as the World Food Programme and all other stakeholders who help to continue to improve the nutrition and health of students in a variety of ways,” he said.

He said that the ministry would continue to find ways to improve the lives of parents and young children and especially to address malnutrition in some children by implementing the inter-ministerial prakas on the cash subsidies for pregnant women and children under two years of age whose families possess an equity or priority card.

On March 17, Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron, US Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy and representative of the World Food Programme Claire Conan participated in the celebration of the National School Meal Programme and the official transfer of 85 additional schools from the World Food Programme’s meals to government provided meals.

In Cambodia, the program benefits 280,000 kindergarten and primary school students in 1,113 schools in 10 provinces. The government currently funds and manages meals at 290 schools (26 per cent of the total) and it allocated $2.9 million for this year’s programme.

The press release said the government, in collaboration with other donors, has contributed to the World Food Program for running the rest of the progamme with the remaining schools, contributing a total of $24 million since 2007.

“The government is proud to have joined the global network of school meal programmes in August 2021 and recognizes that the progamme is becoming increasingly important, especially in helping resist the impact of epidemics on human resource development,” said Chuon Naron.

Conan said that the US government’s donation of more than $84 million starting from 2021 allowed Cambodian children from poor families to have nutritious breakfasts and it has contributed to the furthering of their education and their health through good nutrition.

“The most important thing is that it is the foundation for the national programme and is helping to develop the national capacity to manage the programme by building infrastructure for having good food, clean water and sanitation in schools nationwide,” she said.