WFP’s Productive Kitchen - An innovative way on how school lunches can create jobs in the community

By: Lara Darwazah

تم نشره في Sat 21 May / May 2016. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Sun 22 May / May 2016. 06:03 PM
  • Al Aqsa Productive Kitchen - (From Source)
  • Al Aqsa Productive Kitchen - (From Source)

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been implementing School Meal programs in Jordan since 1975. The program provides Jordanian children from poor families with a nutritious and healthy start to their school day. They break the cycle of hunger and malnutrition, helping the children to concentrate and function better in schools. This year the project aims to reach 320000 school children throughout the country as well as refugee children in Zaatari and Azraq camps.

 We decided to drive to the city of Madaba (situated 30 kilometers south west of Amman) to visit one of WFP’s Productive Kitchens to see how these meals are prepared. Sustainable in application, the program employs specially trained local women to prepare the meals, aiming to empower them through the skills learnt and through striving towards financial independence. Local farmers provide the fruits and vegetables that go into the meals. Wherever possible equipment and services are sourced locally, right down to the busses, which deliver the meals to the schools, thus providing a much welcome boost to local economies. 

 At Madaba's Productive Kitchen a team of thirteen women prepare and cook the various items, which go into the meals.  Most of the women are high school graduates in their twenties, many of whom unable to continue their education due to low grades or financial difficulties. The kitchen offers a practical working environment for them and their families, and is perceived as a safe and socially acceptable place to work.

 As dates are abundant in Jordan- the program offers energy date bars that meet the children’s nutritional needs in most schools throughout the Kingdom. The date bars are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals that boost energy and provide healthy nutrition to vulnerable children who might otherwise go without a morning meal.

 In a bid to diversify school meals for children, savory snacks like pastries are being introduced as an alternative for date bars in 10 schools in Madaba, which is where the pilot of the Healthy Kitchen project began . It is part of Jordan’s culinary heritage that every household and bakery prepares those cheese,oregano,spinach-pocketed breads to eat for breakfast or any time of the day. Along with the pastry every child is provided with fresh fruit and vegetable such as an apple and cucumber.

 Mother of five Um Talal (mother of Talal) manages the day-to-day work at the kitchen. She tells me she feels that the women who work in her team are like her daughters. A self-taught chef, she learnt the skill by watching her mother cook. Upon learning of the women's interest in learning to be beauticians, I asked her about what she made of such aspirations.  “It is an added skill which would help them get employment when the project shuts for the summer” she tells me.

 The concept of the Madaba productive kitchen is being replicated and expanded to both Irbid and Al Azraq towns in Jordan.

 Having spent the morning with the women of WFP’s Productive Kitchen, I came away with a positive impression of the hard work produced. Perhaps I was mostly touched by the strong rapport the manager Um Talal had with her employees. Her dedication and care for them shone through the work environment of the place.