16:50 16 Nov 2023

UN food program to provide more than 60,000 Ukrainian students with school lunches

Photo: facebook/Andrii Otrishko

The World Food Programme (WFP) has signed agreements to support daily school meals for over 60,000 children in 420 schools across 11 regions of Ukraine. 

During the 2023-2024 academic year, the WFP will finance 30% of daily hot meals for students in grades 1-4, Rubryka reports, citing the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

Schools will allocate the funds received through the program to improve the quality of nutrition and reduce the cost of meals covered by parents.

The support program will operate in schools in Kyiv, Lviv, Zakarpattia, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Cherkasy, Mykolaiv, Odesa, and Poltava regions.

The selection of regions was based on various criteria, including the level of food security and the number of internally displaced persons.

The WFP supported the Ukrainian school nutrition reform during the previous academic year, financing the preparation of meals for 12,000 children in 58 schools in the Kyiv region. This academic year, the support has expanded.

Ukraine recently presented the School Nutrition Reform Strategy, approved at the end of October. The reform aims to ensure diverse, balanced, and high-quality nutrition in schools and preschool institutions.

The Kyiv region became a pilot province, which was among the first to implement changes in the organization of the nutrition system in educational institutions and showed positive results.

During the presentation, Minister of Education and Science Oksana Liovochkina explained that the government was trying to provide free healthy meals for all students in grades 1-4 and children in privileged categories.

However, Ukraine currently lacks the resources due to the number of such children. Since 650,000 students in grades 1-11 belong to vulnerable categories, including over 223,000 children with IDP status. Also, a new category of children who suffered from military actions received privileged status.

The total cost of hot meals for children in these categories is ₴13.87 billion. The support of donors and partners, including the World Food Programme of the UN in Ukraine, is crucial, said the minister.

What do we know about the reform of school nutrition in Ukraine?

The reform of school nutrition in Ukraine started in 2020 at the initiative of First Lady Olena Zelenska.

On January 1, 2022, updated menus for students were introduced in Ukrainian schools, developed by Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko. The key feature of the changes was a shift towards healthier nutrition: less sugar, salt, bread, fats, and by-products.

Not all parents reacted positively to the reform, sparking a debate around school nutrition.

In the comments on the "New School" page, one can find many angry comments directed at both Klopotenko and the First Lady.

Allegedly, children go home hungry, and during breaks, they run to kiosks to buy snacks. There are also complaints about the increase in prices for school meals.

On October 31, 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the strategy for reforming the school nutrition system for 2023-2027.

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