By Rohey Jadama & Mustapha Jallow The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), celebrated International School Meals Day at the Gambia Organization for the Visually Impaired (GOVI) on Thursday, 5thMarch, 2015 under the theme “Celebrating Culture through Food.” The main purpose of the celebration, according to the organisers, is to raise awareness on the importance of food and nutrition in education and to share school feeding experiences from across the globe as well as place emphasis and promote food and healthy living in the education environment. Delivering the launching statement, the Vice President, deputised by Mr. Modou Cheyassin Phaal, the Executive Director of National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), said they embraced school meals because it is an opportunity to help close the gender gap, adding that when girls are educated they are more likely to make informed choices and to better support their families in achieving food and nutrition-security. “Studies have shown the importance of school meals goes beyond children just consuming food at school, but, school meals enhance social protection and is a safety net for communities, relieves hunger which contribute to better learning, increases enrolment, reduces absenteeism and enhances progressions from one grade to the next thus enabling children to achieve their full potential,” said Vice President Njie-Saidy. She noted that school meals provide a transfer value to households with school-aged children as it frees up household resources facilitating investment in productive assets. She added that school meals also provide an opportunity for wider economic benefits and provide a market to stallholder farmers’ especially rural women and youth, helping them to increase production. Speaking earlier, the Country Director of World Food Programme (WFP), Madam Vitoria Ginja, said if children go to school on an empty stomach, happiness is absent and concentration vanishes. She said in the past 40 years, school cooks have been steadfast in their commitment to prepare schools meals for the children. Madam Ginja added, “Words alone are not enough to show and recognise their contribution towards a daily smile on a child’s face. WFP values your volunteerism and commitment in ensuring that children are not hungry in school and that they are able to maximize their abilities to learn and my dream is to transform each cook into a nutrition champion.” The WFP Country Director reveals that providing school meals has been the cornerstone of their work and there is approximately 19.8 million children in 63 countries that receive WFP supported school meals. She assured the children that WFP will continue to advocate for their right to nutritious meals. For his part, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Baboucarr Bouye, representing the Minister of MoBSE, said malnutrition is mainly a consequence of ignorance of what to eat and when and how to prepare the food. He emphasized that the consumption of a balanced diet is a pre-condition for a healthy body, mind and soul and urged people to join the van-wagon and crusade against hunger and malnutrition by either contributing to school meals or supporting the promotion of positive eating habits. There was also a food exhibition organised by WFP, FAO, UNDP, UNAIDS in collaboration with various hotels.]]>

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