Authors of the blog post: Bodjrenou Sam and Amoussa Hounkpatin Waliou
Feeding school children in public primary schools is a challenge in Benin. Indeed, due to the limited financial power of parents, many schoolchildren do not manage to benefit from an adequate diet, and this has a negative impact on their intellectual performance and school results.
Benin government and World Food Programme are implementing a school feeding programme to solve this problem through the establishment of canteens in public primary schools. However, the food served in canteens lacks diversity and does not allow school children to cover their micronutrient needs.
As part of HealthyFoodAfrica, in Cotonou Food System Lab, we will set up school gardens and grow vegetables and fruits with good nutritional value, including leafy vegetables, carrots, and papaya. These fruits and vegetables will be integrated into schoolchildren’s diet to improve their nutritional status. Other activities in our Food System Lab will be implemented in urban gardens to provide the local urban population with nutritious and healthy foods.
Our vision is that, in 10 years from now, vegetables with good nutritional and sanitary quality are grown in urban gardens and in school gardens with canteens in Cotonou, Sèmè-Kpodji and Abomey-Calavi. Nutritious and healthy foods are being cooked in school canteens and served to children. Thus, pupils in public primary schools have good nutritional and health status.
To make this vision happen, we are engaging with several local food system actors. We’ve already started collaboration with local urban gardeners and urban gardeners’ associations. We’ve also brought the Ministry of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries on board. We have a strong cooperation established with researchers involved in HealthyFoodAfrica to make sure our practical solutions are also scientifically viable. We will also engage with school canteens and their cooks, school teachers as well as with primary school children and their parents.