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WFP impressed by China's commitment to feed needy schoolchildren

(Xinhua)

12:53, October 20, 2012

BEIJING, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Officials from the world's largest hunger-fighting humanitarian agency have been impressed by China's efforts to feed millions of children through its school feeding programme.

China provides nutrition subsidies for 26 million students in 680 poverty-stricken counties. The annual subsidy for each pupil is currently 1,000 yuan (158 U.S. dollars) at compulsory education facilities in rural areas. This is double the amount offered in 2009.

Gian Cario Cirri, a senior expert of the school feeding service with the World Food Programme (WFP), said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that he and his colleagues were impressed by the "size and scale" of China's School Feeding programme.

The programme is the world's third largest, following India and Brazil.

During the interview, Carmen Burbano, a WFP policy officer said, "What is impressive about the Chinese programme is that the government has rolled out in such a short amount of time and it is reaching so many children so quickly."

Following on-the-spot visits, Carmen said the food that Chinese students were getting was "very nutritious," comprising fruits, vegetables, meat, rice and eggs.

Applauding the programme as being "very complete", Carmen said that, unlike some other countries, the programme was focusing on the most needy.

Despite participation from sectors, including education, finance, health, Carmen encouraged Chinese authorities to link the School Feeding programme with local farmers in a bid to make the scheme beneficial for both students and farmers.

The School Feeding Programme is "not a cost, but an investment," given that the scheme can benefit education, nutrition, agriculture, gender equality and social safety, Cirri said.

Highlighting the cooperation between China and the WFP, Brett Rierson, director of WFP's China Liaison Office, said that China could provide "know-how" for other countries which are trying to counter hunger in schools.

At the invitation of Chinese government, the WFP officials paid several visits to schools in west China provinces, including Shaanxi and Qinghai during the past few months. [ The WFP, funded entirely by voluntary donations, has worked with governments and non-government organizations on school meal projects for nearly half a century.

The WFP had helped 62 countries to launch school meal programmes by the end of 2011, providing a platform for addressing child health and nutrition.

The WFP is the food aid arm of the United Nations.

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