Secondary students at SO Welgedacht C prepare breakfast using new kitchen range. Photo Credit: X. Arnhem
Paramaribo, Suriname, 9 January 2022- Students’ access to wholesome and nutritious school meals is becoming a reality in Suriname thanks to the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Government of Mexico and the Government of Suriname.
Through the ‘Resilient School Feeding‘ sub-project of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean” or Resilient Caribbean Initiative in short, three special education schools in Suriname received kitchen infrastructure upgrades to improve food quality and safety in the preparation of school meals for students.
Upgrades to existing school kitchens is an important step in ensuring access to healthy school meals, as it guarantees schools are well-equipped with the appliances, utensils and storage facilities to prepare and preserve a wide range of locally sourced produce, meats and dairy products.
In consultation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the Resilient School Feeding Programme sub-project identified three schools in need of such upgrades and a rapid needs assessment was conducted to identify the most urgent basic kitchen needs for each school. The schools, which included SO Welgedacht C, SO De Bloementuin and SO Maretraite received infrastructure upgrades to existing kitchens through the provision of new appliances and utensils. SO Welgedacht C received a new refrigerator and kitchen range, while SO De Bloementuin and SO Maretraite received a variety of small kitchen supplies including pots, pans, cooking utensils, hand mixers, and kitchen scales. Each school will receive a wooden kitchen cabinet.
Principal at the O.S. Welgedacht C, Micky Markus, welcomed the support of the project sharing, “Before, it took a long time to prepare and bake bread because we had bad burners. With an oven and good burners, we can offer better quality bread to the children. Soon we will start prepping a hot meal once a week with products from our school garden. Young people will also learn the basics of baking their own bread.”
The handover ceremony for the kitchen appliances and utensils took place in early December. In attendance were representatives of the Bureau for Special Education of the Ministry of Education and foundation board member of SO De Bloementuin, Meriam Weekers, who emphasised the importance of the project to the “growth and development of children and strong citizens“. School Counsellor with the Bureau of Special Education, Tjon-A-Njoek, also shared similar sentiments indicating, “When students eat healthy meals it will help to promote learning and understanding of new material in school”.
The Resilient Caribbean Initiative, funded by the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) is being implemented by FAO in 14 CARICOM countries, with School Feeding being one of the areas supported in Bahamas, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. The sub-project aims to strengthen the capacities of institutions and stakeholders to implement resilient and sustainable National School Feeding Programs. This includes the improvement of kitchen infrastructure to ensure better food quality and food safety.
While Suriname currently does not have an active national school-feeding program, the government, with the support of the sub-project, is developing a draft school feeding policy. FAO National Project Coordinator for Suriname, Anne Getrouw indicates, “While several primary schools are operating their own school feeding activities, the policy will improve access to school meals and promotion of healthy eating habits.”
The sub-project will continue its efforts this year to support the Government of Suriname with developing a resilient school feeding programme and support additional schools with the installation of sinks to improve access to drinking water.