How school meals foster refugee integration
Across cultures, food is about sharing, community and hospitality. It often provides common ground for people who wouldn’t otherwise cross paths. So why not use it as a tool to help keep children in school, foster integration and create job opportunities? The World Food Programme is creating “Healthy Kitchens” across Jordan’s “poverty pockets” that provide freshly-cooked food in schools for vulnerable Syrian refugee children as well as Jordanian children from host communities. They also provide on–the-job training, personal connections and financial stability for the Syrians and Jordanians engaged in the sourcing, preparation and packing of the school meals. Our funding and that of other WFP partners will enable one “Healthy Kitchen” to operate for three years, reaching 6,000 children and supporting 30 women and men.
Jordan is a safe haven in a fragile part of the world for people escaping war and persecution. Refugees from Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Syria have sought shelter in the country, putting a strain on its infrastructure and public services.
Today, Jordan is home to 9.5 million people, 30% of whom are foreigners while more than 660,000 are UN-registered Syrian refugees.
According to the World Food Programme, only 20% of these refugees are food secure, a 33% decrease since 2014. Moreover, only 7% of Syrian women who live outside refugee camps participate in the Jordanian labour market.
In Jordan, WFP has set up an innovative school meals initiative to address the multiple challenges of the protracted refugee crisis: access to education, food security, livelihood creation and social integration.
Healthy Kitchens ensure Jordanian and Syrian schoolchildren receive the freshly-prepared meals they need to concentrate and learn, encouraging them to attend class and keeping them away from child labour. They also provide employment for the Syrians and Jordanians - 60% of them women - who prepare, bake and pack the school meals. Healthy Kitchens thus become a way to help women refugees resettle and integrate into new communities, empowering them not only to restart their lives in a foreign place, but also to learn valuable skills and find culturally-appropriate work.
By distributing locally-sourced meals, the programme also strengthens local food production, processing and transport, which stimulates local economic growth.
Over the next three years, WFP’s Healthy Kitchens will run 17 kitchens, providing school meals to more than 300 schools in refugee camps and host communities, reaching over 85,000 schoolchildren.
Our funding and that of other WFP partners will enable one Healthy Kitchen to operate for three years, reaching 6,000 children and supporting 30 Syrian refugee and vulnerable Jordanian women and men to gain skills, access employment and play a greater role in their community.
The Ministry of Education in Jordan already runs a national school feeding programme, which is the only national social protection scheme targeting children of school age, and the only one supporting both Jordanians and Syrians, with around 170,000 Syrian children enrolled in public primary schools.
With a specific focus on employment, the Healthy Kitchens model is to be phased into the national programme, which will be deployed and fine-tuned over the years to find the most efficient and cost-effective solution to be fully handed over to the government.