Fuelling bodies and feeding dreams
Indonesia’s School Meals Programme gives children hope for a better future
It is dark outside when Adit wakes up. It’s 5am and time to get ready for school. When he finishes getting ready, he steps quietly out of his house to begin his journey to school. Adit walks one kilometre to school in the foggy air— a long distance for an 11 year old to make each day.
“I am a member of the class committee,” said Adit. “Every day I am responsible for making sure that the classroom is clean and ready for the day before class starts in the morning.”
“Adit is is normally very shy until after you get to know him better,” said Safitri, Adit’s mother. “He wakes up around five every morning so that he can arrive at school around seven. Adit normally has breakfast at home before he goes to school. But it’s a very modest meal of coconut rice or fried rice.”
Safitri explained that Adit used to have an unhealthy eating habits at school where he often bought food from the local food vendors. “He used to buy snacks from the street vendors around school and he often felt full from eating junk food. They are not very hygienic either.”
“We, as parents, think that through this school meals programme, Adit, is now able to benefit by getting access to nutritious food at school. More importantly, he is now eating more regularly at home,” said Safitri. “This is because Adit has stopped buying snacks from the street vendors.”
The school meals programme in Serang District is supported by Cargill and the World Food Programme (WFP). It replicates the national school meals programme (known as Pro-GAS), implemented by Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture. Pro-GAS sought to revitalize the former design of the school meals programme in 2015 with the objectives of addressing education quality, low learning achievement and low nutritional status of school-age children.
WFP provides support to the Government of Indonesia to design the programme, formulate guidelines and training modules based on its experience in the implementation of a successful pilot school meals programme in Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) and Papua Provinces.
“WFP is committed to continue its support for the government’s efforts to address the issue of under-nutrition,” said Nikendarti Gandini, WFP’s Programme Policy Officer. “The national school meals programme helps to address the issue of low nutritional status of primary-aged children. Undernourishment in children of the school-age may impact their ability to concentrate and lead to absenteeism due to increased vulnerability to illness.”
“Adit washes his hands with soap regularly these days. He does it before and after a meal,” Safitri added. The nutrition education with the use of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials is a major part of the national school meals programme. WFP supports the district’s Education and Culture officials, as well as the primary school teachers with the training of trainers on nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and school garden management.
The knowledge attained from the different training activities, particularly on nutrition, subsequently gets transferred to the students and cooking groups. These cooking groups consist of the local communities. This then helps to influence positive change in behaviours around health, nutrition and hygiene, as well as to ensure nutritious food being served at school. Rice with fish and vegetables in turmeric sauce is one of the common meals served in the school meals programme at Citawa Primary School. “That is one of Adit’s favorite meals at school,” said Safitri.
“I am more focused and not sleepy anymore in class,” Adit beamed when he explained the benefit felt from having healthy meals at school. Adit used to weigh 19 kilograms and was 119 centimeters tall before the school meals programme was implemented. He now weighs 21 kilograms and is 126 centimeters tall. This is a positive development when referring to his Body Mass Index (BMI), the gender and age specific weight scales. His current BMI stands within the Median scale which means that he falls under a normal weight range for his age.
“One day, I want to be a policeman,” said Adit. “I want to help people who need help.” His parents are both very proud of Adit. Safitri expressed her hopes for the school meals programme to continue in the future. “I am very happy with this school meals programme as it helps Adit and his friends at school to get access to nutritious food. I hope that Adit can continue to grow as a healthy and smart child so that he can achieve his dreams one day.”
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Find out more about WFP’s school meals on wfp.org