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Cambodia joins FAO and WFP to improve children’s diets through school food


On 30 June 2022, Cambodia joined the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on the project “School food nutrition guidelines and standards for safeguarding children and adolescents’ right to food”. The official joining took place through a hybrid workshop that saw the participation of 36 stakeholders in person, with additional experts joining online. Opened by representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia, FAO and WFP, the event featured a presentation of the project followed by discussions on its work plan and activities, the potential synergies with other ongoing projects and the assessment of capacity development needs at the policy level.

The project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Germany, aims to improve children’s diets through the regular consumption of school food that is better aligned with their needs, and through the adoption of health-promoting food practices. The strategy to do so is centred on the development of a global methodology for countries to design their own context-specific, participatory and food systems-based nutrition guidelines and standards, a set of rules, principles and recommendations to improve the quality, quantity and adequacy of foods and meals available in and provided by schools. FAO and WFP, in collaboration with international experts and national stakeholders, are currently developing the methodology and, once finalized, it will be featured on the recently-launched School food global hub.

Cambodia is still facing malnutrition-related issues, but has made progress in the past years and is strongly committed to investing in children’s nutrition and development. At a global level, school-food programmes have proven a valid tool to address malnutrition and support the Right to Food of schoolchildren and adolescents. With the support of WFP, Cambodia has been running a school meal programme since 1999, and in 2014 it also introduced a home-grown school feeding model using locally available ingredients for school meals. The whole school meal programme, which provides daily meals to about 280.000 schoolchildren in more than 1.100 schools, is now gradually transitioning to national ownership.

"The inception workshop allowed us all to build a relationship for the project implementation, and also to provide opportunities to build an understanding of the school food nutrition guidelines and standards, and of the safeguarding of children and adolescent’s rights to food. The project is not bringing in the guidelines from outside: on the contrary, Cambodia will play a key role in sharing its experience of developing nutrition guidelines and standards for school food, which will guide the designing of the global methodology" states Iean Russell, senior advisor to FAO Cambodia.  

The project will be implemented at country level by FAO, WFP and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of Cambodia in collaboration with other government and non-government actors. Just like Ghana, Cambodia is joining the FAO-WFP project to test, review and improve the methodology, measure its results in pilot schools, document lessons learned and gather direct feedback from local stakeholders and right bearers. 

"The collaborative effort of FAO and WFP in bringing forward the project can be said as a tipping point for Cambodia, particularly for communities and quality education in rural areas. This new project will contribute to improving the school meal programme, especially the home-grown school feeding model which is part of the national social protection programme to ensure access to diverse and nutritious food among children from poor and food insecure communities. These supports will help children to improve their attention to learning and ultimately achieve equitable and inclusive education in Cambodia" emphasizes Ven Thol, Deputy Director of Primary Education Department of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport in Cambodia. 

The workshop allowed the participants to take part in the review of project design, activities and workplan and see what fits best within the country’s context. The participants also appreciated the thoroughness of the proposed process to develop the nutrition guidelines and standards, taking into consideration local consumption practices, supply chains and food availability. In addition, the project’s rights-based approach to mainstream legal perspectives into the development process of the nutrition guidelines and standards also enlightened the participants about the innovative approach to ensure their effective implementation. 

The project contributes to the Strategy for FAO’s Work in Nutrition, in which the Organization renews its commitment to tackle malnutrition in all its forms by accelerating measures across agri-food systems to enable healthy diets for all; moreover, the project has the potential to positively impact various areas of FAO’s Four Betters. In the long term, the project can contribute towards a number of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and 4 (Quality Education).