Gambia Celebrates International School Meals Day

By Rohey Jadama & Mustapha Jallow
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary
Education (MoBSE), celebrated International School Meals Day at the
Gambia Organization for the Visually Impaired (GOVI) on Thursday, 5thMarch, 2015 under the theme “Celebrating Culture through Food.”
The main purpose of the celebration, according to the organisers, is
to raise awareness on the importance of food and nutrition in
education and to share school feeding experiences from across the
globe as well as place emphasis and promote food and healthy living in
the education environment.
Delivering the launching statement, the Vice President, deputised by Mr.
Modou Cheyassin Phaal, the Executive Director of National Nutrition
Agency (NaNA), said they embraced school meals because it is an
opportunity to help close the gender gap, adding that when girls are
educated they are more likely to make informed choices and to better
support their families in achieving food and nutrition-security.
“Studies have shown the importance of school meals goes beyond
children just consuming food at school, but, school meals enhance
social protection and is a safety net for communities, relieves hunger
which contribute to better learning, increases enrolment, reduces
absenteeism and enhances progressions from one grade to the next thus
enabling children to achieve their full potential,” said Vice
President Njie-Saidy.
She noted that school meals provide a transfer value to households
with school-aged children as it frees up household resources
facilitating investment in productive assets. She added that school
meals also provide an opportunity for wider economic benefits and
provide a market to stallholder farmers’ especially rural women and
youth, helping them to increase production.
Speaking earlier, the Country Director of World Food Programme (WFP),
Madam Vitoria Ginja, said if children go to school on an empty
stomach, happiness is absent and concentration vanishes.
She said in the past 40 years, school cooks have been steadfast in
their commitment to prepare schools meals for the children.
Madam Ginja added, “Words alone are not enough to show and recognise
their contribution towards a daily smile on a child’s face. WFP values
your volunteerism and commitment in ensuring that children are not
hungry in school and that they are able to maximize their abilities to
learn and my dream is to transform each cook into a nutrition
champion.”
The WFP Country Director reveals that providing school meals has been
the cornerstone of their work and there is approximately 19.8 million
children in 63 countries that receive WFP supported school meals. She
assured the children that WFP will continue to advocate for their
right to nutritious meals.
For his part, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Basic and Secondary
Education, Mr. Baboucarr Bouye, representing the Minister of MoBSE,
said malnutrition is mainly a consequence of ignorance of what to eat
and when and how to prepare the food.
He emphasized that the consumption of a balanced diet is a
pre-condition for a healthy body, mind and soul and urged people to
join the van-wagon and crusade against hunger and malnutrition by
either contributing to school meals or supporting the promotion of
positive eating habits.
There was also a food exhibition organised by WFP, FAO, UNDP, UNAIDS
in collaboration with various hotels.