The “Farm to School program brings healthy food from local farms to thousands of poor school-aged children in low-income remote villages. Moreover, the program teaches students about healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. In addition, the use of local products in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for local low-income farmers. It also provides local women with temporary jobs in food preparation,” explained Abdo Raad — the director of Saint Saveur School and Orphanage. The school, located in the city of Joun, south of Lebanon is home to 70 orphans and vulnerable children and hosts 150 school children.
“It is a win-win situation for everyone,” he concluded during the inauguration ceremony of the kitchen supported by the German Embassy in Lebanon, as well as the opening of the third Lebanese-Palestinian youth summer camp which hosts Palestinian youth from camps in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.
“We thank HCI for this important initiative which is vital for the revival of low-income remote areas,” commented H.E.M Brigitta Eberly, the German Ambassador to Lebanon who attended the ceremony.
The German Embassy in Lebanon contributed over $16,000 to equip the kitchen at the premises of the school/orphanage which will help HCI’s Farm to School project expand its scale and scope to reach out to other schools and orphanages in nearby villages, which is expected to benefit more than 700 children during the summer of 2009.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by H.E. Mrs. Bahia Hariri, Minister of Education and Higher Education and H.E. Mr. Mario Aoun, Minister for Social Affairs.
“Cause and Identity” is the theme of this year’s Lebanese-Palestinian youth summer camp which coincides with the celebration of Jerusalem as the 2009 Arab Capital of Culture. The 40 Lebanese and Palestinian youth come from different regions in Lebanon and from Palestinian camps in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.
“Building bridges and trust and creating a platform for dialogue and sharing among Lebanese and Palestinian youth is the main objective of this summer camp,” H.E. Mrs. Hariri, the President of the Hariri Foundation for Human Sustainable Development (HFHSD), explained during a discussion with the participants. HFHSD is sponsoring of the summer camp.
The Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education has been actively working in the past two years on integrating health and wellbeing topics into the Lebanese school curriculum, especially for elementary school students. “HCI’s successful Farm to School project which promotes healthy eating habits for school-aged children is a significant initiative that the Ministry of Education should consider adopting to improve student health,” suggested, Rabih Yazbeck, HCI’s Regional Director, during a conversation with the participants. “We hope that the summer camp’s attendees will benefit from our initiative, and take what they’ve learned back to their families and help bring awareness in their surrounding environment,” Mr. Yazbeck concluded.
The Farm to School Project was launched this March in two regions in Lebanon. To this date, thousands of school-aged children have learned about the path from farm to fork and healthy eating habits.
The program desires to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and provide jobs for vulnerable women and nutrition for poor students hence contributing towards their health and well-being.
The family farm owners will have a chance of securing a steady income, the students will be motivated to get an education, and the unemployed women will have the opportunity of working and generating income. These benefits are not limited to economy and education, but also affect the overall morale of the residents.
On the long-term, the program will introduce waste management programs like composting, and experiential education opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking demonstrations and farm tours.
What we are witnessing here are the combined efforts of the public and private sectors, and the civil society, local and international. These initiatives transcend all national, religious, and racial differences and have one aim in mind, the well-being of our children and families. At the end, humanity is the bridge that connects us all, and it lies ahead in anticipation of the courageous many who will attempt to cross it.