Summer nutrition camps in Lebanon
The playground of Beirut’s Sin el Fil First school would normally be empty in July. But for two weeks it is a hive of activity. There’s a cacophony of playful shouting, a wall of colourful posters, a dance party in one corner, a football game in another, and a huge pile of bananas.
It’s the first nutrition camp for 1,000 Lebanese and Syrian students from WFP’s school snacks programme, aged 11–13.
WFP’s partner IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) is running six summer camps across Lebanon this year. They have the simple aim of boosting Lebanese and Syrian students’ awareness of good nutrition in a fun way. Every day, over two weeks in six schools, IOCC is running a series of nutrition-inspired activities — dances, plays, games and craft sessions — bringing together students from a variety of backgrounds.
“We met on the bus on the first day,” explained Lynn. “We are best friends now and will hang out for the rest of summer when camp is over.”
Most of the 38 schools where WFP runs its snack programme operate with double shifts: in the morning Lebanese students receive a snack when in attendance and in the same classrooms, Syrian students receive a snack in the afternoon. Whilst those groups would normally pass each other going into and out of the school gates, they are now mixed together in the nutrition camp. Enhancing social cohesion among the two groups is a positive secondary aim of the camp.
Using Lebanon’s iconic cedar tree, students put classroom learning — or playground learning in this case — into action, making a nutrition pyramid. 11 year old Ola explained how she learned that a balanced diet includes a combination of fresh fruit and vegetables alongside carbohydrates and proteins. “Balance is important,” she says.
It is no coincidence that the programme has been funded by Italy; a country known for food. This year, the Italian Corporation gave WFP a further EUR 1 million contribution for the school snacks project including these nutrition camps.
“I was delighted to see children with wide smiles holding their nutrition art work,” explained Nanor Karagueuzian, school feeding project manager at IOCC. “Many of these students did not know each other before the camp began. They came from different backgrounds and communities and now they’re running around together, learning about nutrition in a fun way. That gives me so much hope for the future.”
At the end of the morning, there is a distribution of bananas, reiterating the importance of fruit. Making nutrition a priority is a one of the key ingredients behind WFP’s global #HealthyNotHungry campaign — part of the roadmap towards a #Zero Hunger world. Good nutrition is widely recognised as an essential element in the ability to lead a healthy and productive life; a journey which is beginning for some this summer in a playground in Beirut.