8 September 2017, Armenia – The World Food Programme (WFP) handed over the implementation of the School Feeding Programme in Tavush province to the Government of Armenia. The Government of Armenia has budgeted to take over all primary school children in 74 primary schools in Tavush province from September 2017 onwards.
High-level representatives from the Government of Armenia at both national and regional level, the donor community, WFP Armenia, school authorities and children came together to launch the official handover ceremony at Haghartsin School in Tavush province.
Mr. Hovik Abovyan, the Governor of Tavush Province opened the round of speeches thanking WFP Armenia, the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia for a very productive and effective synergy in delivering such an important educational and nutritional program in the province of Tavush and all over Armenia.
The Minister of Education and Science H.E. Mkrtchyan credited the school feeding programme with doing more than just supplementing schoolchildren’s diets and keeping them attentive in school. He said the programme, through parents and kitchen helpers’ involvement, has also created a stronger community. “The School Feeding Programme is not only solving the problem of hunger and education, but also fosters stronger community ties.”
“Today’s handover ceremony marks a critical milestone in the sustainability of the School Feeding Programme. This Programme has become one of the utmost priorities of the Government of Armenia, as School Feeding is a proven investment in economic, educational, social and agricultural development of the country. For each one dollar invested in School Feeding, there is a return on investment of nine USD,” stated Pascale Micheau, Country Director and Representative of UN World Food Programme.
To make the handover process a success, WFP Armenia and its partners developed a transitional model, which includes the provision of comprehensive trainings, the renovation of key infrastructure and furnishing the schools with modern kitchen equipment, the creation of synergies among partners, and a shift to cash transfers. The later saw local retailers increase their sales up to ten percent with 90 percent of the money distributed to schools spent on products that are produced and/or processed/packaged in Armenia.
With the very generous multi-year funding from the Russian Federation, WFP initiated in 2010 the “Development of Sustainable School Feeding” Project. With an overall budget amounting to USD 35.5 million from 2010 to the end of 2018, today school feeding is reaching 89,000 schoolchildren in all 10 provinces of Armenia, except the capital Yerevan. While around 29,000 children are under the direct management of the Government, the remaining 60,000 are supported by WFP. In these six provinces, WFP also provides family food entitlements to 1,700 women who work as kitchen-helpers involved in the preparation of the meals.
“There are many indications that this programme is working. Success is evident by the data and the improved energy levels of the children. Many talented children are realizing their potential and talent now that they receive school meals,” said Mr. Pavel Evseev, Head of Division at the Department for International Financial Relations Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. He ensured partners that the Russian Federation will continue to support the implementation of the school feeding in 2018 and beyond.
Mr. Andrey Ivanov, Minister-Council of Russian Federation Embassy in Armenia also discussed the importance of collaborating with foreign partners, and emphasized Russia’s commitment to financially supporting the school feeding programme. “It’s nice to see the faces of smiling children who now have a chance to succeed in life because they have access to good meals,” he added.
The high-level representatives and guest had also the chance to visit the renovated facilities at the Haghartsin School, participate in students performances and have lunch together with schoolchildren at the school’s canteen.
The WFP School Feeding Development project has demonstrated ability to be a robust and sustainable programme once handed over to the Government. A recent joint study of the World Bank, WFP and Government of Armenia concluded that the draft 2016–25 State Education Development Programme prioritizes the improvement of quality education with multiple components, including the setup of child-centered environments through the introduction of education-support services, extracurricular activity classes, school feeding, efficient rules, and regulations of entities, and in particular point (h) of Article 2 calls for a continuation of the school feeding project.