David Beasley (R), Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), shakes hands with Khamphay Sisavahn, Lao deputy minister for Education and Sports, during a handover ceremony of school feeding program in Oudomxay, Laos, May 15, 2019. The WFP has handed over its school feeding program in more than 500 schools to the Lao government. A ceremony was held on Wednesday at the Bor village school in Oudomxay, some 310 km north of Lao capital Vientiane, where the WFP will provide 40,000 plates of food per year to the school's 200 students. (Xinhua/Pocky Chanthaphaphone)
OUDOMXAY, Laos, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) has handed over its school feeding program in more than 500 schools to the Lao government.
A ceremony was held on Wednesday at the Bor village school in Oudomxay, some 310 km north of Lao capital Vientiane, where WFP will provide 40,000 plates of food per year to the school's 200 students.
In 2002, WFP started the school feeding to provide nutritious school meals to children who would often come to school on an empty stomach. Since then the program has expanded to cover more than 140,000 children in 1,450 schools across the country.
"School meals have given a generation of our children better nutrition and health, helped them grow, develop and achieve success at school," said Sengdeuane Lachanthaboune, Lao Minister of Education and Sports, who represented the Lao government at the handover ceremony.
"They have also contributed to attracting more children to school and keeping them there. We are deeply grateful to WFP and its supporters for their tireless work in helping us build a stronger nation and giving our children a chance at a better future."
A cost-benefit analysis of the school feeding program in 2018 showed that for every one U.S. dollar spent, the return is 6 U.S. dollars. Not only has Laos seen an average 14 percent school enrollment increase over the last 10 years, children receiving school meals are also spending one year longer at school compared to their peers, according to a press release of WFP to Xinhua.
"This handover is a perfect example of what can happen when we all work together with one common goal: helping a new generation of children grow up healthy and educated," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
WFP has been working in Laos for the last 45 years. Following the adoption of the Lao Government's National Policy on Promoting School Lunch in 2014, WFP started to shift its focus from implementing the School Meals Program to building the capacity of the government and communities. The goal is to hand over the entire program by 2021.
Starting from the new school year in September, the Lao government will support the Program in 800 schools, including 515 of them handed over by WFP, disbursing 0.10 U.S. dollars (LAK 800) per child per day. WFP will provide continued technical support to ensure sustainability and strengthen local ownership, including installation of school water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, setting up school gardens, community green houses and fish ponds.