The transition to homegrown school meals ‘can be very tough’

At 7:30 a.m., over 200 students gather under the roof of a large, open-air building at the Doun Ouv Primary School, 20 km from the city center. Bowls in hand, they wait patiently for a serving of white rice, and fish and spinach soup.

Some students head back for a second serving, while others clean their dishes, wash their hands at a nearby hand-washing station, and head to class. Meanwhile the cooks — women and mothers from the local community — start to prepare for lunch.

The meals were provided to students for free as part of the Cambodian government’s school meals program. The intervention, originally used as an incentive to get children to school, started in 2003 with overseas in-kind donations of rice, cooking oil, and canned fish, and was implemented by external partners such as the World Food Programme. But in 2015, the government and WFP started to pilot a new model of school meals program, called homegrown school meals, using food produced and purchased from local communities in several schools.

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