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Children of San Joaquin Primary Now Get Free Breakfast through Feeding Program

May 10, 2023

Children of San Joaquin Primary Now Get Free Breakfast through Feeding Program

Today in the Corozal District, students as well as the faculty and staff of San Joaquin Primary School officially took over managing the school’s feeding resilient project. It is a team effort spearheaded by the ministries of education and agriculture, along with the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the government of Mexico. The project ensures that the students at the school eat a healthy meal every day. News Five’s Marion Ali was there for the official handing over and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting
It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and the one hundred and fifty plus students attending San Joaquin Primary School are now benefiting from free breakfast through the Belize Resilient School Feeding Program. They assumed management of the program during a ceremony today where the ministries of education and agriculture, handed over the responsibility.

Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education
“This is a part of our bigger, healthy start national project, which is a commitment from the Government of Belize on the Plan Belize to ensure that across the country we establish feeding programs in our schools, both at the primary level and the secondary level to ensure that our students are given an opportunity to get a healthy nutritious meal, at least one healthy nutritious meal every single day, free of cost. Every year we’re going to expand and grow that program. This year we’ve budgeted another two million dollars to expand the program to other schools, so that’s already in the budget.”

Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, says that in order for the program to be successful, his ministry has provided resources and made investments for the program to continue.

Francis Fonseca
“We’ve trained the cooks, we’ve developed school menus, school protocols for them to use. It involves the community as well. We’re buying produce from the local farmers, we’re involving the local community in the work, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, they are responsible for school gardens, so they have partnered with us across the country to establish school gardens in our primary schools. Every school who wants a school garden now, so it’s an exciting initiative all around. The children learn about teamwork, they learn about discipline, they will learn, you know, to develop a work ethic because if you’re going to take care of plants, you have to be up early and you have to be diligent.”

The program was introduced in 2021, when primary schools were still closed due to COVID, and this according to Minister of Agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai was a lesson that there is an urgent need for food security.

Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture

“COVID-19 taught us very important lessons: that you can have everything but you have no food, you can’t eat, you can’t trade, you can’t survive. Remember, tourism went to zero. It is agriculture that sustained the country for a long while, right? And so, we must also remember that even sick people need food. So no matter how much disease come, people sick, in fact, they need better food. And so food never, never stops being demanded for.”

Principal of San Joaquin R.C. School, Dianira Moh, says that the children are so enthralled by the project, that the school suddenly has had a very good attendance since the project began.

Dianira Moh

Dianira Moh, Principal, San Joaquin R.C. Primary

“We can see that when we give the free breakfast, we have a high attendance. Everybody is here, everybody enjoys the free snack, everybody sees that, that they want to see what they’re going to get. When it’s their time to go for the breakfast, everybody wants to run. They want to be first. And they have all their happy faces. They’re so happy.”

Marion Ali

“Okay, but some students are accustomed to having unhealthy breakfast – chips and ideals or soft drink and Oreo. How do you change them from that habit to eating eggs and spinach and stuff like that?”

Dianira Moh

“Well, we are gradually changing it. Yes, it was a challenge at the beginning. The cooks were a little unhappy at the beginning in January because when we were giving them vegetables or fruit, some of them were not eating it. But now, they are enjoying. Like today, we gave them apple, grapes, and their hotcakes, and they ate.”

Part of that investment was to construct a kitchen at the school where the food is prepared and served to the children. San Joaquin was one of six schools in the two northern and Belize districts that were selected as part of a six-month pilot project. The project has other targets than to just feed the children with healthy foods, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization’s National School Feeding Project Coordinator, Cathleen Juan.

Cathleen Juan

Cathleen Juan, Coordinator, F.A.O National School Feeding Project

“It’s looking at not just feeding the children, but also community support, farmer involvement, policy measures, nutrition, education, having a garden, and then not least, but the last thing is the actual meals that the children get. So it’s very multi component. Just some of the things we did is upgrading infrastructure. We installed this entirely new kitchen here at San Joaquin, which did not exist before this project started. It was half of a classroom. And in three of our other schools, we actually did the same thing. We put in a brand new kitchen. We gave all the utensils and appliances, but we also did a lot of education.”

Marion Ali for News Five.