School Feeding and Take-Home Rations Improve Outcomes in Cambodia
Rath Khemra, IRD’s local Food for Education field monitor, drops in on a school support committee meeting at the Prey Kri Choeung primary school in Cambodia’s Kampong Chhnang province. The schoolmaster, Hung Phalla, is telling the group how delighted she is that the Food for Education program is increasing school attendance, enrollment of school-aged children, and teachers’ attendance. “All of this has made for much better education,” she says, adding that “the physical appearance of the students is also healthier.”
A nutritious and tasty snack is served to primary schoolchildren in Cambodia’s Kampong Chhnang province under the USDA Food for Education Program.
IRD implements the Food for Education program in 124 schools in the province by providing healthy on-site meals, take-home rations for girls, incentive rations for grade 6 completion and timely school enrollment, and ration awards to high-performing teachers. IRD and local school support committees prepare nutritious meals for 30,000 children and teachers each day. The meals consist of corn-soy blend, vitamin A-fortified soybean oil, spices, palm sugar, and locally available fruit.
Prey Kri Choeung primary school was selected for assistance because its needs were so dire: student and teacher absenteeism was high, children were hungry at school, and enrollment was low. IRD coordinated with the education authority at the provincial, district, and school levels to provide the meals and train volunteer cooks. The school support committee provided a kitchen shelter, cooking pans, a stove, and sugar and salt. IRD trained the teachers and school masters to keep records of student and teacher attendance. After building water and sanitation infrastructure in schools, IRD used traditional puppet shows to educate students and teachers about basic nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation, and then distributed hygiene kits containing basic supplies.
Non Prounh, a village leader and chief of the school support committee, says that while the food is a strong incentive, once in school “the children are more attentive because they are not hungry.” IRD, the education authority, faith-based organizations, village chiefs, and commune councils jointly conducted an enrollment campaign to alert parents of the value of education and encourage them to enroll their children. “Students in grade 6 are now…attending classes and planning to continue their studies,” says Pov Rein, a parent representative. “Before, many parents had stopped sending their children to school once they completed primary education. But after the campaigns, many have changed their attitudes and now support their children to continue to secondary school.” Son Siveth, IRD’s program manager notes that the school feedings and take-home rations are “truly providing better education.”
The McGovern-Dole Food for Education project in Cambodia is funded by the US Department of Agriculture and implemented by IRD. The four-year program ends in July 2012.