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School Feeding Program to Boost Student Health

School feeding
Pupils enjoying OFSP roots, Photo: C Namara

 At 12:45 pm on Tuesday 25th June 2017 at Groupe Scolaire Muramba, staff and pupils of the school eagerly tasting the Orange-Fleshed Sweetpotato (OFSP) that they had been waiting for so long. In the last three years, International Potato Center (CIP) has pioneered SUSTAIN, a 3 year project in 8 districts in Rwanda. The project intervention entails inclusion of OFSP in school meals as part of efforts to improve the nutrition of children. CIP, together with its partners, identified schools in Gakenke district of the Northern Region to use OFSP in its ongoing school feeding program. The primary purpose for this initiative is to improve the nutritional and health status of pupils and their households using OFSP, the Vitamin A powerhouse. 

Batamuriza Ernestina, the head-girl of the school that is located in Murehe village, Cyabingo district and a senior six student is lucky that her family is a SUSTAIN beneficiary. “I can’t describe the curiosity my siblings and I had after we were told how delicious they are.”She had shared with some of her classmates and friends stories of the delicious OFSP, so when the headmaster mentioned at the assembly that they would eat OFSP, all the students could not wait to taste them and the fact they were not enough for all left them sad. 

Mr Ferdinard Rurangirwa, director of the school feasting on OFSP

Mr Ferdinard Rurangirwa, the director of the school, said the inclusion of OFSP in school meals has benefits including boosting the nutritional status of children. “At the moment, I can’t meet the demand for OFSP for all the children. The suppliers of the OFSP roots do not have enough. And the children love it,” he explained. Ferdinand said that if more farmers grew OFSP, there would be a significant increase in their income because of the market demand and more importantly, better nutrition. Consolee Muteyimana from IMBARAGA farmers Association encouraged the headmaster informing him about the number of farmers in the district who now have access to improved varieties of OFSP vines, even some for root production.

With such a good beginning, there will be enough OFSP roots for all within no time, and everyone wins! Students get healthier food, farmers get new markets and the local economy gets a boost. The event was a huge success. The school administration demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm to make this nutrition initiative truly successful and hence plan to continue including OFSP in meals.

About Caroline Namara

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