Lunches Save Lives


The kids here wash their hands before lunch like they’re scrubbing in for surgery, washing up to the elbows, under the nails, and between the fingers.  It makes sense: 13 kids in Rio Onde Latine school have died of cholera since the outbreak started in 2011. And it’s one reason that the director of the school is so excited about the school feeding initiative that’s part of CARE’s program Kore Lavi—since the program has started, no more children have died.

Joseph Arnold, the school principle, attributes this change to two things: better nutrition and better hygiene.

“Before, by 10 am every morning, kids were complaining of headaches and stomach aches.  I would have several kids lying on the floor in my office because they were sick. You could see kids with their hair falling out, they were so malnourished.  They didn’t have any resistance to diseases, because they had no food. They couldn’t concentrate on learning, because they were so hungry, and so worried about where their next meal would come from.

Now, you can see that they are physically healthy.  Since the program started in January, we have not had a single student die.  They aren’t so skinny anymore.  And we also know that the food they are eating is clean.  The caterers who make it use drinkable water, and they keep strict hygiene standards.  Some of the parents even go to supervise to make sure.  And we have equipment for kids to wash their hands, and they are all doing it the right way now before every meal.”

Saving lives is no trivial matter, but it’s not the only impact the program is having.  According to Joseph, kids are also doing better in school.

“The kids don’t come to class hungry anymore.  Now that they get breakfast here, they show up at 6 am, even though we don’t start giving out food until seven.  Some of them want us to start having classes on Saturdays; that’s how excited they are about school now.  They are learning a lot better, and the teachers say that teaching them is much easier.  We are looking forward to seeing the exams this year, because we’re sure the kids are going to have much higher scores than before. This community was like a dead zone before. Kids couldn’t come to school and learn because they were too hungry.  For the first time in the 32 years we have had this school, now we have hope. ”

The 233 students in Rio Onde Latine are not the only ones to notice a difference.  CARE’s school feeding pilot is operating in 6 schools in the area, and reaches 1,702 children. The program hopes to scale up its programming once they learn the best ways to get results.  They also hope to convince the government of Haiti and the World Food Programme to adopt similar programs for school feeding that focus on locally grown food, and providing the best education possible for kids.

Want to learn more?  Check out the page on Kore Lavi.

About the Author: Emily Janoch is the Senior Technical Advisor for Knowledge Management and Research for CARE USA’s Food and Nutrition Security team.  She has 9 years of experience in international development, focusing on how to work with communities to get solutions that work for them.  She has a Masters’ in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.