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Meet the children aiming for an A+ in nutrition
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Meet the children aiming for an A+ in nutrition

How Lebanon’s Ministry of Education is boosting awareness for an entire generation

There’s a subdued chatter in the usually buzzing hallways of Beirut’s Sed el Bouchrieh school. It is the first day back at school after a long summer break.

This is one of 38 public primary schools that Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) selected to participate in the World Food Programme’s (WFP) school meals programme.

Each day, Lebanese and Syrian students are given a white paper bag containing fresh fruit and a carton of milk produced in Lebanon with the help of local partner International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). After munching on the snacks during recess, trained Ministry staff also give the students nutrition education classes.

Ripple effect of good nutrition advice

For two weeks during summer, IOCC ran six summer nutrition camps in schools across Lebanon, focusing on good nutrition through creative games. Twelve-year-old Ibrahim participated in one of these camps where he learnt about the importance of balanced meals. “My dad is a chef and when I went home and told him what I learned, he said ‘good — now you can cook too!’ So now I help him to make healthy dinners with lots of vegetables every everning.”

During the school year, Lebanese and Syrian students typically only pass each other going in and out of the school gates. The nutrition summer camp however brought together students from various backgrounds and communities, including Karla and Lynn. They are still playmates despite being in different classes.

Social cohesion

After each day at the nutrition camp, Karla reported back to her parents, sharing what she had learned. “My father loves fast food,” she explained. “But I told him that healthy home-cooked food is better. He still has some chips, but we all eat a bit better at home now.”

Both the summer nutrition camp and the daily provision of fruit and milk are funded by the Italian Development Corporation. This year, it gave WFP an additional €1 million contribution to support the programme which will benefit 17,000 Lebanese and Syrian children.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education sees these nutrition endeavours as critical in ensuring a healthy future for Lebanon. That is what makes the partnership with WFP so natural, as ensuring that nutrition is a priority is one of the key ingredients in WFP’s #HealthyNotHungry campaign — part of its plan towards a #Zero Hunger world.