School meals bring income and opportunities to Indonesian communities

Providing access to healthy breakfasts and empowering local communities through the national school meals programme

Gina Lomas
Dec 19, 2017 · 3 min read
Lukas gets ready to cook healthy breakfast for the students. Photo: WFP/Nunuk Supraptinah

Lukas smiles when he talks about his experience as part of the cooking group for Haliwen Primary School. “I was so excited when they told me that I could join as a cook for Pro-GAS,” said Lukas, a 20-year-old youth from Haliwen Village in Atambua District Capital, Belu District.

Pro-GAS is Indonesia’s national school meals programme implemented by the Ministry of Education and Culture supported by the World Food Programme. The programme has been running since 2016 in 11 districts throughout Banten, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), Papua and Papua Barat Provinces.

It aims to address education quality, low learning achievements and low nutritional status of school age children.

But it hasn’t just benefitted children. “I am an orphan, I live with my older sister,” Lukas confided. “Her income is often not enough to cover both of our needs. The opportunity to cook for Haliwen Primary School allows me to obtain financial incentives every month to add into the household income.”

Lukas and other members of the cooking group at the school’s kitchen. Photo: WFP/Nunuk Supraptinah

On average, I can get around IDR 2,000,000 per month (USD $149), that works out to be USD $3 per day.” Lukas said that he has gained valuable experience from cooking healthy meals at Haliwen Primary School. “Ever since I started cooking for Pro-GAS, I have understood more about the importance of vegetables as part of every meal. This then gives me some creative ideas on how to prepare vegetables in various of appetizing ways for the students and at home.”

The national school meals programme capitalizes on the lessons learned documented by WFP through the implementation of a pilot school meals initiative in both NTT and Papua Provinces from 2012 to 2015. “Based on the request of the Government of Indonesia, WFP will continue to support the national school meal programme and its planned scale-up for the following year from 11 to 39 districts in 2018,” said Nikendarti Gandini, WFP programme Policy Officer.

Indonesia faces undernutrition, overweight and obesity issues with stunting rates of 36.8 percent according to Indonesia’s Basic Health Research (RISKESDAS, 2013). High levels of stunting in early life may impede cognitive capacity that will impact on the academic performance of school-age children. The RISKESDAS explains that calorie and protein consumption level for school-age children from six to 14 years is still lower than average. Undernourishment in school-age children may impact their ability to concentrate and lead to absenteeism due to increased vulnerability to illness.

“Since the implementation of Pro-GAS, I observe that students are rarely absent from school and they are motivated to study,” said Maria Yovita, the Head Teacher of Haliwen Primary School. “Many of the students in this school comes from low income families, and therefore, the nutritious meals provided every morning is their only access to have healthy breakfasts.”

Mximus is a 12-year-old student of Haliwen Primary School. Photo: WFP/Nunuk Supraptinah

“I’m really happy that I get the meals at school,” said Maximus Kesreis, a 12-year-old student from Haliwen Primary School. “My parents are both farmers. They cannot afford to give me allowance.”

Maximus is the youngest of seven children in his family. Many low-income families like Maximus’s, struggles to provide access to nutritious meals to their children. The implementation of the national school meals programme has helped many children to gain access to nutritious meals at school. Hence, further helping to increase attendance rates, lower drop-out rates, as well as increase cognitive performance of school children.

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Find out more about WFP’s school meals on wfp.org

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Gina Lomas

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An aid worker aspiring to turn everyday life into an adventure.

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