Eighty thousand primary school children are to receive a months’ worth of food rations through the United Nations World Food Programme (WF) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The donation which is being made to the Ministry of Education, amounts to Rs. 74 million,
(US$ 400,000) and will help enhance the Ministry’s national school meal programme.

A release from the WFP states that the rations will be in the form of a take home package to ensure the children and their families are able to cope during the extended school closure owing to COVID-19.  The donation will also help kick off the first- phase of the Ministry’s take-home meal programme while it mobilizes more resources to expand the programme.

With a view to ensuring a diverse diet for children and their families, the package will comprise of eggs, lentils and other dry rations which have been specified by the Ministry of Education.  The release states that the programme is scheduled to begin by the end of this month in schools identified by the Ministry.  In time, it is expected to be extended to all schools that fall within the National School Meal programme.

WFP states that they have used the take-home method widely, during restrictions where access to schools is limited, even before COVID-19.

The release quotes the WFP Country Director Brenda Barton, as stating that “The generous funding contribution from the Government of Australia is very timely. Already, 40 percent of all primary school-aged children are too thin. For many children, the meal they get in school is often the only meal they will get in a day. Take-home food rations will be key to help safeguard children’s health and nutrition during this difficult time when the country is battling COVID.”

“We recognise the importance of sustaining the National School Meal Programme amidst these school closures. We are thankful to WFP and the Government of Australia for providing us with funds to supply take-home rations to children covered by the School Meal Programme,’, states the Minister of Education and Sports, Dulles Allahaperuma, according to the release.

The release further states that, “WFP will continue to work with the Government of Sri Lanka to complement the National School Meal Programme by supporting locally-grown food production and value chains through smallholder farmers. Furthermore, WFP is supporting MoEd on measures such as in-school handwashing stations, in preparation for the re-opening of schools.”

The World Food Programme has supported school meal programmes globally since 1963 as an essential need that provides children access to education, nutrition and health. The government funded mid-day meal programme has helped feed over 1.1 million primary school children in Sri Lanka.


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