Reconnecting children to traditional timorese food through harnessing locally sourced produce – an initiative of the Merenda Escolar Programme

Sat. 25 of November of 2023, 10:21h

The Government of Timor-Leste strengthened the National Merenda Escolar (school meals) Programme and took a major step on the road to home grown school feeding this week, with the launch of a new recipe book based on locally available and nutritious, seasonal produce. The launch of this Merenda Escolar recipe book took place at the Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace on Saturday, November 25th, 2023. Imagem1

The recipe book is the result of a Multi-ministerial and UN Agency cooperation, and was launched at a ceremony in the Presidential Palace, led by the Minister of Education, Dulce de Jesus Soares, together with the Minister of Health, Elia dos Reis Amaral, the Vice-Minister for Institutional Strengthening in Health, José dos Reis Magno and the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Forestry, Marcos da Cruz, with support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and social enterprise Agora Food Studio.

From the start of the new 2024 school year, school children across the country will be served hot, tasty, and healthy meals from the book’s menus. The menus, featured by municipality, are designed to improve the nutritional status of school children and to promote sustainable food systems and agriculture at the local level.

All 65 recipes featured in the book have been evaluated to ensure they provide nutritious, affordable, and appealing school meals covering all three food groups: carbohydrates for energy, protein for growth, and vitamins and minerals for cognitive development and protection. Imagem2

During her address at the launch event, Minister of Education, Dulce de Jesus Soares, stated that “as part of the government’s national school feeding programme the new menus will strengthen children’s nutritional intake at a critical time in their brain development, increasing their ability and energy to learn and gain the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their potential and contribute to the country’s human capital development.”

The recipe book launch will be reinforced by training of school management teams, school directors, coordinators, cooks, food handlers and local farmers. The training will support home-grown school feeding knowledge and budgeting, link schools to local farmers, and underscore food safety practices. Imagem3

WFP Country Representative, Alba Cecilia Garzon Olivares has stated that “Healthy school meals based on local foods will help to combat high levels of poor nutrition, reconnect children with traditional Timorese foods and support the development of the local value food chain through Home-Grown School Feeding.”

The Merenda Escolar programme is designed to reach all school children, regardless of their gender, disability, or social status. The programme currently provides approximately 292,000 school children with a meal each school day. The Merenda Escolar recipe book and the Home-Grown School Feeding training was funded by the United Nations SDG Fund.