Haiti: USAID-funded Hunger for Education project feeds 18,161 students at six Salesian centers
Salesian feeding programs are helping youth to stay in school, focus on their studies, and connect with their peers.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (July 11, 2019) Salesian students at six Salesian centers in Haiti received access to better nutrition thanks to a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco headquartered in New Rochelle, N.Y., secured the grant for its Hunger for Education USAID International Food Relief Partnership project in Haiti. The project, which ran from November 2017 to March 2019, aimed to increase the health and learning capacity of students by implementing school feeding programs in Salesian centers within the country.
The project helped support the shipment of 21 40-foot shipping containers of meals – eight from Breedlove, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping eradicate world hunger; nine from Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable; and four from Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.”
The rice-meals provided 18,161 students school lunch five days a week for 17 months, with smaller numbers during summer vacation months. The donation was shared among Salesian centers in the cities of Port-au-Prince, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Les Cayes, Gressier and Gonaïves. The feeding programs also covered two months of summer programming at Les Cayes, Gressier, Fort-Liberté, Cap-Haïtien, Gonaives, Thorland, Petionville, Drouillard and at the Salesian post-novitiate.
The Hunger for Education project has also helped to ensure each of the six Salesian centers had kitchens equipped to cook the rice-meals while training 15 school cooks to prepare the nutritious meals for students. Prior to this project, the Cardinal Keeler Center in Gonaïves had no kitchen at all. With funding through the project, the center was able to develop a new kitchen from the ground up, including cooking supplies.
“The new kitchen and feeding program have been well received by students from all disciplines within the school,” says Father Yves Jorcelim Pierre, director of the Cardinal Keeler Center. “This new kitchen has also provided access for teachers, support staff, cooks and managers to eat there as well. The feeding program and donation of food aid has been a great blessing to our center. Children are now assured a hot meal each day. Prior, many were coming to school on an empty stomach and knowing they had no food to go home to in the evening. Children are much more focused on their studies now.”
Salesian vocational training students who received meals from the Hunger for Education project, expressed high levels of gratitude for having food to fuel their practical exercises. In Fort-Liberté, agricultural students work in the school’s fields from 8:00-11:00 a.m. every day, and they count on having food available when they are finished with their morning projects.
In Cité Soleil and Les Cayes, Salesian students work hard in vocational training workshops to learn skills in carpentry, welding, auto-mechanics, electricity, sewing and beauty. They rely on the meals to keep them going through practical training workshops as well as classroom learning. Before the feeding program began, administrators noted instances of vocational training students fainting during their practical exercises due to a lack of food. Now students have energy not only to make it through the day but also to stay after school to participate in soccer or other programs.
Each of the six participating school directors noted that the feeding program improved student academic performance and enhanced the learning environment. Students who previously were sleepy in the afternoon after recreation time had more energy to continue in their studies after meals were implemented during the school day. School directors also noted that report cards have improved and that their students study much better when they have proper nutrition.
“Salesian missionaries strive to reach the poorest students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to receive an education. Many of the students come from families where food is not readily available and a large percentage of these students come to class on an empty stomach,” says Jessica O’Connor, senior international development officer at Salesian Missions. “The project has already had a great impact on students. Children who once arrived at school hungry and had to struggle through classes without food are now provided with a meal during the day, and as a result, students have shown improvements in health, happiness and capacity to learn.”
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas ranking 168 out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. The country also faces the highest levels of severe food insecurity in the world, according to the World Food Programme. More than half of the country’s population was chronically undernourished during 2012-2014, representing a total of 5.3 million Haitians.
Nearly 100,000 Haitian children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, causing irreversible stunted growth for close to 30 percent of all children in the country. Haiti’s economy has also been repeatedly affected by political crises and natural disasters in the last two decades exacerbating an already challenging situation. Nine years after the 2010 earthquake, Haiti’s population of 11 million continues to face humanitarian and development challenges.
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