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Hot Lunches for Haiti

Volunteer cooks at L’Ecole National Trouin. Photo: Simon Chambers

December 16, 2011

By Simon Chambers

It’s hard to study with an empty stomach.  Ask the students at L’Ecole National Trouin in the mountains near Léogâne, Haiti about the difference a hot lunch can make to their ability to focus on their studies, and they’ll tell you.  In fact, they have a skit on the topic that they shared with visitors from PWRDF, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), and Finn Church Aid (FCA) who visited the school on November 24, 2011.

PWRDF has heard this message from the children, and is working with L’Ecole National Trouin and 32 other schools in Haiti to provide hot lunches to 8000 students every day this school year””from October until next July.  Each student receives beans and rice (which, along with cooking oil and salt, are provided by the program) supplemented with some vegetables or meat whenever possible.

Each day, Rosemary leads a team of four women who leave their homes at 3am to walk 2 hours to L’Ecole National Trouin.  Once they arrive at the school, they spend the day preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the meal which is served to the 478 students at the school.

A large marmite. Photo: Simon Chambers

They cook about 25 large “marmites” of rice, 7 large marmites of beans, a carton of oil, and six pounds of salt.  A marmite is a 5-pound coffee can, used as a unit of measurement in Haiti.  They supplement this ration with vegetables grown in their school garden or purchased at the local market on market days.

When asked why they put in 16 hour days as volunteers with the school feeding program, the women replied simply, “It’s because of the children- now they come to school.”

And come they do!  The enrollment at L’Ecole National Trouin has almost doubled in two years thanks to the program.  The school, rebuilt after the original buildings were rendered unsound in the 2010 earthquake, has nine teachers working with close to 500 students who range in age from 5-15.

The students agree that the program helps them.  A sign attached to a tree, written by the students in Creole, translates as “The School Canteen program helps us to work better at school.”  It was one of many signs the students had prepared and hung around the school for the visit.

In addition to the school feeding program, the school receives hygiene supplies and training: aquatabs (to purify water), soap, hand towels, and education about proper hand washing for students and teachers.