Developing capacity for strengthening food security and nutrition

Greenhouses opened in Armenian schools to improve students’ nutrition

1 June 2018, Yerevan, Armenia – Greenhouses are opening in rural schools in Armenia’s Ararat region today with the goal of increasing schoolchildren’s dietary diversity and improving their nutrition. All three greenhouses – in the public schools of Vedi, Verin Artashat and Surenavan – are equipped with modern heating, ventilation and drip irrigation systems.

 This activity is part of a major project aimed at strengthening food security and nutrition in selected countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, funded by the Russian Federation and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in technical partnership with the Russian Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute. The FAO pilot will serve as a model that can be replicated to ensure the sustainability of the national school feeding programme in Armenia.

Three types of greenhouses were built: a small greenhouse to cover the school requirements for additional food supply; a medium-sized one that also allows for the production of surpluses for market; and a large greenhouse that can be used to produce food not only for the school itself, but also for neighbouring schools and for selling surpluses in the local market. 

The vegetables and greens grown in the pilot greenhouses will complement the hot meals provided at the schools and should diversify children’s diets while improving nutritional value. Due to the modern technologies applied, the greenhouses will also serve as a platform for training school staff and local farmers and for the dissemination of good agricultural practices.

“Our goals are to better connect schools and farmers and to widen their knowledge on healthy diets, nutrition and sustainable agriculture,” said Mauricio Rosales, FAO senior project coordinator. “Ultimately, this programme builds links among agriculture, nutrition and social protection within the national food systems.”

According to an FAO report on the state of food security in the region, Armenia is primarily affected by undernutrition and deficiencies in zinc and other micronutrients.

In 2014, the Government of Armenia began implementing a national school feeding programme that ensures hot meals for 29 000 elementary schoolchildren every school day. A year later, a five-year strategy was adopted to improve the nutrition status of children. Armenia is among the few countries in Europe and Central Asia that have a stand-alone law on food security.

Among the participants in the official opening ceremony at the Surenavan secondary school in the Ararat region were the directors of the pilot schools and representatives from line ministries, the Russian Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute, and the Ararat regional administration.