Students receiving a food ration in Lebanon (Hussein Beydoun)
The economic crisis that Lebanese have been experiencing for more than two years has contributed to the high degree of food insecurity among citizens and refugees. The “School Nutrition” program contributed to the distribution of food rations in public schools.
Three mechanisms adopted by the “School Food Program” implemented by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon in partnership with many international organizations. It includes snacks distributed to Lebanese and Syrian students in some public schools and the distribution of food rations to parents in others, in addition to school kitchens run by a group of Lebanese and Syrian student mothers in a number of schools. to prepare an integrated meal.
The program, which began six years ago, coincided with the worsening living and economic crisis in Lebanon. According to a recent report released by the World Food Program (WFP), the food insecurity rate reached 46 percent among Lebanese citizens, affecting half of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, as the price of basic foodstuffs rose sharply. more than 1,062 percent. since October 2019.
In 2021, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) published a study entitled “Multidimensional Poverty in Lebanon: A Terrible Reality and Uncertain Prospects”, in which it found that “poverty in Lebanon has worsened dramatically just one year, after it has become approximately 74 percent of the total population.If the wider dimensions of income, such as health, education and public services, are taken into account, the percentage of people living in multidimensional poverty reaches 82 per cent. percent of the population.
The Director of Instruction and Guidance at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon, Hilda Khoury, explained to “Al-Araby Al-Jadeed”, that “the school food program started in 2016 in partnership between the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Education and the World Food Program (WFP), and at that time included 10,000 students.Lebanese and Syrian in 22 public schools.Today it includes primary school students in 115 public schools.At the request of the Minister of Education and Higher Education Abbas al- Halabi, the program will target a larger number of students in early next September.
She talks about the many mechanisms involved in the program, saying: “In most public schools, students are given a ration of ready-made food (snack) during the holidays and it is a rich healthy ration that includes 109 public schools. The kitchens were created and run by a group of Lebanese and Syrian student mothers who prepare. These kitchens include 18 public schools, including 6 World Food Program (WFP) funded kitchens distributed in the capital, Beirut, Tripoli, Akkar (in north), Nabatiyeh, Tire (south) and Zahle (middle Bekaa), in addition to 12 kitchens with the support of the French Agency. for development “.
These kitchens are distributed in 12 schools in Hermel, Shamstar and Sha’at (North Bekaa), Jib Yenin (Western Bekaa), Qub Elias (Central Bekaa), Deir Ammar, Sir Al-Diniyeh, Al-Talil (North) , Al -Bisaria and Zararia (South), Jbeil and Shehim (Jebel). Lebanon) “.
“The ministry is collaborating with many international organizations, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Kitabi project, which this year contributed to the distribution of food rations, benefiting 145,000 Lebanese and Syrian students in 883 schools,” Khoury said. public on the basis of education ”.
For his part, Hazem Hassan, World Food Program (WFP) – Lebanon’s School Nutrition Program Officer, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “The program has expanded over six years to include some 73,000 Lebanese and refugee children. Syrians. in need in Lebanon 115 public primary schools throughout Lebanon and one child enrolled in the target schools received a snack every day. He explains that “two food patterns apply: the first is a meal consisting of fruits or vegetables with a can of milk or peanuts and the second is a meal consisting of a sandwich of fruits or vegetables prepared by volunteer mothers in school kitchens . ”
Hassan closes his speech by saying: “With the growing needs in all parts of the country after numerous crises, the school food program is one of the most important programs of the social security network, as it invests in food security for a “Lebanon’s most important assets. Today’s assets and school children are the future of the country.”
In another report, the World Food Program finds that “millions of children around the world go to school every day on an empty stomach and hunger affects their concentration and ability to learn.” He explains that “73 million children live in extreme poverty in 60 countries and need urgent food aid.” The WFP School Food Strategy, published in January 2020, also affirms the organization’s commitment to ensuring that all primary school children have access to school meals.
In a similar context, one of the public school principals, who preferred to remain anonymous, notes that his school “received 120 food rations through a written project, at the rate of one ration for each parent, child and who are enrolled from the beginning to the sixth grade, regardless of the number of children. ” .
Expressing his hope for “the continuation of the project and its purpose in other phases of education”, he estimates “the important and rich food ration, the value of which exceeds one million Lebanese pounds (about 38 dollars according to the exchange rate “From the difficult conditions and the painful reality in which Lebanese live, it includes many basic materials such as vegetable oil, tahini, milk, canned food, cereals and many others.”