National School Feeding Programme Enhances Nutrition and Livelihoods

In a significant stride towards improving the health and wellbeing of students while simultaneously bolstering the livelihoods of local farmers, Bhutan celebrates the successful implementation of the National School Feeding and Nutrition Programme. This initiative, a collaborative effort between the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and local governments, has revolutionized access to nutritious meals for approximately 90,000 students across the nation.

Launched with the support of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), this transformative programme has not only tackled the pressing issue of malnutrition and anemia among children but has also uplifted the income of over 7,000 smallholder farmers. Through strategic partnerships and targeted interventions, the programme has seamlessly integrated agriculture into the school curriculum, fostering a sustainable cycle of food production and consumption.

Under the ambit of this programme, seven projects have been executed, with a cumulative expenditure exceeding Nu 120 M. These projects encompassed infrastructural enhancements such as the construction and refurbishment of kitchens and storage facilities in numerous schools, aimed at facilitating the provision of wholesome and nutritious meals to students. Moreover, initiatives such as the distribution of power tillers and electric cookers have not only streamlined agricultural practices but have also mitigated environmental hazards associated with traditional cooking methods.

Central to the success of the programme is the adoption of innovative tools such as the School Menu Planner (SMP) or Menu Optimiser Tool, which tailor meals according to the specific nutritional requirements of students. Over 600 stakeholders, including school cooks, kitchen supervisors, and teachers, have undergone comprehensive training to effectively utilize these tools, ensuring the delivery of balanced and nourishing meals to school-goers.

The impact of the programme extends beyond the confines of educational institutions, with farmers signing contractual agreements to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to schools and hospitals. This symbiotic relationship has not only bolstered agricultural productivity but has also catalyzed economic growth, with farmers collectively earning approximately Nu 24 M annually.

Expressing optimism about the programme’s efficacy, Karma Wangchuk, Chief Programme Officer of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, emphasized the transformative potential of the SMP menu optimizer tool in revolutionizing school meal preparations. Furthermore, Namgay Thinley, Chief Agriculture Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, highlighted the pivotal role of KOICA in providing financial support and fostering sustainable agricultural practices.

With the resounding success of the National School Feeding and Nutrition Programme, KOICA contemplates extending its support to similar initiatives aimed at enhancing education, human resource management, and technical training in Bhutan. Taeyoung Kim, Country Director of KOICA offices in Bangladesh and Bhutan, underscored the agency’s commitment to building on this momentum, with a keen focus on maximizing effectiveness and sustainability.

As Bhutan marks the culmination of this groundbreaking programme, the nation stands poised at the forefront of innovation in education, agriculture, and public health. With the ripple effects of this initiative reverberating across communities and generations, the journey towards a healthier, more prosperous future for Bhutanese youth and farmers continues unabated.

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