BANGLADESH: Nutrition Program Brings Hot Meals to Grade Schoolers for First Time

School children enjoying their first hot school meal and learning to eat with spoons—Conscience International Photo

Building a grade school in Shambhuganj, Bangladesh was only a dream when Richard Sarker, Conscience International Project Director for Southeast Asia, began talking with local leaders and U.S. donors a few years ago. Now the school is a reality with nearly 200 village students and more coming every year, so many that an expansion building program is underway.

But last year Richard saw a serious void. Children were coming to school hungry and going home hungry, not sure that when they arrived home that they would find anything nourishing to eat.

Seeing with his own eyes how difficult it was for children to study without proper nourishment, he determined to find a way to introduce a hot meal program for every student as well as the teachers. Village parents were willing to help. The only thing lacking-funding. But thanks to support from donors in Dunwoody, Georgia USA, the children were served their first school meal in April, 2017.
A cook was hired and the village parents came to help. Those who have gardens volunteered to bring what they could to add to the cooking pots-a few assorted vegetables. But it was more than a meal; it was a learning session as well. By Bangladesh custom, the children normally eat with their fingers. Now, for the first time, a teacher taught them how to use a spoon. The reasons were a matter of hygiene, management, and time-and the fact they were eating a hot meal.

"With two hundred children hygiene is a big concern; we do not want any of these kids to get sick, "Richard explains. "There is only a hand water pump for washing, and when the smell of food is making the children even more hungry, they have a tendency to eat without washing their hands rather than stand in a long line to clean them. By using spoons, the mid-day meal time is better managed."

The school has grown so quickly that classes-and meals-must be served in two shifts. The first meal is served as the first shift of classes ends and the second meal is served as the second shift of classes arrives. But no one arrives or goes home hungry.

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