President of Ukraine

Olena Zelenska at the third partnership meeting on school food reform: Now we have a unique opportunity to instill healthy eating habits for an entire generation

1 November 2023 - 21:04

Olena Zelenska at the third partnership meeting on school food reform: Now we have a unique opportunity to instill healthy eating habits for an entire generation

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in the third partnership meeting "Food Reform: Challenges, Achievements, Perspectives" to exchange experiences on the implementation of the school food reform. The event took place in Kyiv region.

Heads of 12 Regional State Administrations, their respective deputy heads, along with representatives of Kyiv Regional Military Administration, visited a number of educational institutions in Kyiv region. There, they familiarized themselves with the reform in action – successful examples of implementing changes.

Guests saw how technological models of food organization, such as basic and reference kitchens, are applied in practice. They also heard feedback from colleagues about the updated menu and other innovations used in schools and kindergartens in Kyiv region to provide children with healthy and nutritious meals.

Furthermore, participants of the event visited the construction site of a kitchen factory in Bucha, which will soon start operating and will provide meals to over 10,000 children from 30 educational institutions in Kyiv region.

"It's important that our work unites the entire country. Similar meetings have already been held for Ternopil, Odesa, and Poltava regions. Kyiv region is now hosting the third such conference. This is true leadership. But in reality, everyone is important; everyone has brought something significant. This is how a quality reform is created not from the top but on the ground," Olena Zelenska, who is the initiator of the school food reform, said.

Kyiv region was deliberately chosen as the location for all three partnership meetings held during 2023, and representatives from all regions attended them. Active renovations and modernization of kitchens and dining facilities in educational institutions have long been underway in Kyiv region. The construction of the kitchen factory in Kyiv region is an innovative solution for Ukraine. Additionally, the region pays attention to how children are fed not only in schools but also in kindergartens, Ruslan Kravchenko, the head of Kyiv Regional Military Administration, said during the meeting.

The intensive program of visits concluded with a working meeting where the guests had the opportunity to discuss what they had seen, the potential for using Kyiv region's experience with communities and institutions in other parts of the country, and to ask their questions.
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, Deputy Head of the Office of the President Oleksiy Kuleba, along with other representatives of the President's Office, Head of Kyiv Regional State Administration Ruslan Kravchenko, and representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development, the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection, the State Audit Service, and the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine took part in the working meeting.

"Our reform is no longer just about food. It's about collective actions. During the resistance to the enemy, Ukrainians have learned to cooperate like no one else in the world. And this is the best foundation for positive changes – not waiting for something to be ready, but participating in its development, as you are doing now. In the conditions of war, everything has taken on a different meaning. The school food reform is also another form of Ukrainian self-defense – protecting our children, our future. We must give them the best so that they feel that life goes on, there is a perspective, they are needed, and they are loved. Dozens of adult professionals in this room, thousands across the country, have come together to provide children not just with a menu, but with life force, not just calories but strength. For communities, this is also an economic boost – job creation, financial revitalization. It's again the rebuilding and construction of the future for all of us," Olena Zelenska said.

The Strategy for School Food Reform, adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers, was presented to those in attendance.

"Another result of our joint work, these meetings precisely, has just arrived – the document that we wrote together, the School Food Strategy until 2027, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. And now it's our official tool and action plan at the same time. It lists all the steps, all the goals. But the most important goal goes well beyond 2027. It's about shaping a culture of healthy eating in Ukraine. We now have a truly unique opportunity to instill healthy eating habits for an entire generation. So that they spread from children to their families and further into society," the First Lady said.

As Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Kuleba said at the meeting, one of the challenges faced by the community involved in implementing the school food reform in educational institutions is its decentralization. Each region must independently develop its plan for changes, taking into account the needs and capabilities of the communities and their vision of how the process should be organized. This was highlighted by Orest Stepaniak, the head of the National Association of Public Catering and the School Food Reform Office.

Organizers hope that the partnership meetings, active exchange of experiences, and close collaboration among all regions, relevant ministries, and supporting partners will help communities improve the organization of meals for young Ukrainians as quickly and effectively as possible.

"We are preparing not just a new menu. We are preparing future victories for our children. And that means a victory for the entire country," the President's wife concluded.