Fuelling dreams one bowl of soup at a time

How school meals are helping students to stay in school

WFP Asia & Pacific
Jan 22, 2018 · 3 min read

For 400 children at Stung Sen Monorum primary school in Preah Vihear Province, this morning’s breakfast is ‘‘korko soup’’, a typical Cambodian dish. This soup is filled with vegetables, including eggplant, pumpkin, green papaya, moringa leaves and long beans.

It also happens to be 11-year-old Siv Yong’s favourite food.

Siv Yong (right) and his younger brother arrive at school hungry and looking forward to breakfast. Photo: WFP/Ratanak Leng.

‘‘I like eating pumpkin in that soup. Eating food at school is more delicious than at home as we can eat rice with hot soup here; while eating at home mostly with the same food and without soup,’’ Siv Yong said.

Every day, Siv Yong, who is currently in grade 6, has to walk around 3 kilometres from home to school with his three younger brothers, who are in grades 5, 1 and pre-primary school.

Siv Young and his younger brother always receive top grades in their class, and they aspire for a future where they can help others. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,’’ Siv Young said. Children in Cambodian villages often say that they wish to be a teacher, as they are educated and are role models for young students, who dream of a career outside of farming.

As a father of four, Siv Yong’s father, Mr Mok Yerng, 33, is trying hard to keep sending his children to school every day.

Siv Yong with his father and brothers at school. Photo: WFP/Ratanak Leng.

‘‘I myself studied only to grade four, while my wife never attended school at all. We wish to see our children’s life be better than ours,’’ Mr Mok Yerng said. ‘‘My children told me they really like eating meals at school because they have hot soup and vegetables and the recipe changes every day. I think school meals not only encourage my children but also myself to keep sending them to school regularly, and I work hard for their future,’’ he added.

Siv Yong’s parents out the front of their home. Photo: WFP/Ratanak Leng.

The school meals programme in Stung Sen Monorum primary school is implemented by the World Food Programme and Ministry of Education, and encourages children to eat nutritious and locally grown food. Fresh vegetables and meat/fish are grown and raised by local farmers, usually within 10km of each school.

Students eat a wide range of vegetables each week, depending on what is in season. Photo: WFP/Ratanak Leng.

Volunteer school cooks receive these ingredients in the evening and wake-up as early as 3am to begin cooking for hundreds of students. Siv Yong’s father has volunteered to work as a school committee member. He is in charge of collecting money from families to support the school cook’s salary and to provide condiments at school.

Teachers help to serve breakfast for students each day. Photo: WFP/Ratanak Leng.

As the oldest brother in the family, Siv Yong needs to help his parents to do housework after school. He says he can cook rice very well.

‘‘To cook rice well, we have to make sure we are able to measure the water and rice well,’’ Siv Young shares his life skill.

Next school year, Siv Yong will go to study at the high school, which is about 6 kilometres from home. His father is committed to save money from now to buy him a bike so he can continue his education. With a good diet and an education, Siv Yong may achieve his dream of becoming a teacher and to see the world beyond his village.

Story written by Ratanak Leng.

Learn more about WFP’s work in Cambodia.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store