A new kitchen has been opened at Lvea Primary School in Trapaing Thom commune of Siem Reap province’s Prasat Bakong district offering community based agricultural goods to promote nutrition, growth and education for children. Chan Narith, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and secretary-general of the National Social Protection Council (NSPC) said at the inauguration on July 3 that the school meal programme has been implemented in primary schools with kindergartens in 10 provinces. He noted that the aim of the initiative is to ensure adequate nutrition and healthy growth for children, as the school meals are both nutritious and varied, providing sufficient calories for the students. “On the other hand, it aims to enhance learning … as children who come to school hungry struggle to learn. We want children to focus on the content of their lessons and having a full meal in the morning supports this,” he said. He highlighted the school has a total of 407 students and 11 teachers. Of these, only 200 students, or about 50 per cent, eat breakfast. With the support and contribution of Narith and officials of the General Secretariat of the NSPC, the school began construction of the 4.5m by 7m kitchen in January and completed it in March with a budget of 20 million riel (about $4,875). Additionally, the school received a $3,000 donation from the NGO Kamboo Project to build an outdoor dining area for students, connected to the new kitchen.

The new kitchen at Lvea Primary School was inaugurated by the National Social Protection Council (NSPC) on July 3. NGO Kamboo Project donated funds for the construction of an outside dining area attached to the kitchen. Kamboo Project via social media

Narith mentioned that the effort, supported by the national budget, aims to maximise the use of local agricultural products by students. “The school programme using community agriculture ensures that meals are made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, which not only provide nutritious food for children but also promote economic activity within the community,” he said. According to Narith, in order to institutionalise and transform the programme into a comprehensive national initiative, as well as to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the National Social Assistance Fund (NSAF), the government issued a sub-decree on March 13, 2023, mandating the use of community agricultural products.

Students grow and gather local produce to help supply the new kitchen with nutritious ingredients for school meals. NSPC

Over the course of 2024, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has been implementing school meal programmes using local products in 553 target schools across 10 provinces, including Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Battambang, Stung Treng, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Oddar Meanchey, according to the NSPC. The council noted that approximately 153,586 students benefitted from the programme, supported by 1,518 chefs, in the first quarter of the 2023-2024 academic year. It operates with a budget of 6.632 billion riel ($1.161 million) out of a total budget of 22.25 billion riel ($5.422 million). The school meal programme was launched by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the education ministry, under the latter’s Development Partnership Fund, beginning in 1999 with 64 schools and 37,500 beneficiaries.