First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska begins summing up the results of the year in the areas of her work. One of them is school meal reform.
It was launched at the initiative of the President's wife before a full-scale Russian attack on January 1, 2022. With the beginning of the full-scale aggression, a large number of people needed provision of hot food. The schools that, thanks to the reform, had an updated technical base, were able to cook hundreds of thousands of portions of food. Institutions became humanitarian centers. Shelters for IDPs in different parts of Ukraine were organized on the basis of schools.
Olena Zelenska emphasized the main directions of the reform this year.
1. The necessary prerequisites for the start of construction of the kitchen factory in Bucha to provide high-quality fresh food to educational institutions in the region have been obtained. The patron of the project is Howard Buffett, an American philanthropist and businessman, the son of the famous investor Warren Buffett.
"Mr. Buffett told me that he wants to participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine. We decided to start with education in the de-occupied region, which suffered the most from the Russian invaders," the First Lady said.
The main consumers of the products of the new kitchen factory will be schools and preschool education institutions of three communities: Bucha, Nemishaieve, Borodyanka. Production capacity can be reconfigured or expanded to meet the nutritional needs of all segments of the population. In particular, the enterprise will be able to feed temporarily displaced persons and local residents.
"This is how our reform of school meals returns in wartime, because it is within its limits that we planned to build powerful enterprises that will feed not one institution, but a number of them. And this is part of our plan to restore Ukraine, because we need to start rebuilding right now," Olena Zelenska said.
The kitchen factory in Bucha will be operational on September 1, 2023. It will become a pilot project, and in the future the network of kitchen factories will be extended to the entire territory of Ukraine. Each of them will be able to provide food for 30-40 educational institutions.
2. Despite the war, the development of personnel potential continues: the Directorate of Vocational Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Ukraine, the Directorate of Public Health and Disease Prevention of the Ministry of Health, the teams of the National Public Nutrition Association, Yevhen Klopotenko, the Ukrainian-Swiss project "Acting for Health", the National Administration of Education and Youth of the Republic of Estonia (NarNo) implemented chef training programs.
In particular, a series of trainings was held for educators-cooks of vocational education institutions, who will pass on their knowledge to the cooks of canteens in schools and preschool institutions. 230 educators-cooks from six regions of Ukraine (Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv, Lviv, Poltava, Rivne and Kherson) have already completed the training.
3. One thousand hub schools will receive donor aid from UNICEF in the amount of USD 2,000 for equipment for canteens.
4. With the support of the Ukrainian-Swiss DECIDE program, a series of strategic sessions "Reform of school meals: in the conditions of martial law" was held. They were dedicated to the need to ensure high-quality and full-fledged meals in educational institutions working on site during the Russian invasion.
"It is important that, in such difficult conditions, educational institutions have the opportunity to organize food provision and at the same time that the quality and safety of food does not deteriorate," the First Lady said.
Olena Zelenska emphasized the importance of security, because during the educational process, air alarms are possible, when not only children and teachers, but also staff of school canteens have to stay in shelters for an indefinite period of time. Therefore, clear and understandable rules are needed to help workers of food units in critical moments: how to feed children, if cooking has been suspended, when technological processes can be resumed and when not, etc. The reform team is developing the following recommendations.
5. The "Znaimo" portal continues to inform managers, educators, parents and business representatives about the most relevant topics in the organization of food provision in educational institutions. More than 4,700 primary school teachers have already attended the "Healthy Nutrition" course from UNICEF and are using new materials and knowledge to teach children. More than 260,000 people from more than 10 countries have used the portal. Together with the Ukrainian Institute for the Development of Education, a new phase of the portal's activity has begun.
In addition, the President's wife spoke about the reform plans for the next year.
6. The team of the Institute of Educational Analytics, the Swiss-Ukrainian DECIDE project, and the Ministry of Education and Culture is conducting a study of the state of the organization of school meals in order to form a map of needs and identify the most pressing problems of communities in the organization of food provision.
The training of cooks and the development of the "Znaimo" portal will continue.
"Znaimo" is an Internet club for all participants in the process. Educators will find here everything about the new standards of healthy and tasty school lunches. After all, before changing something, you have to teach yourself. For parents, there is a separate section on how to teach healthy nutrition at home. That is, to continue what was started at school. And the pupils will learn about the right and at the same time tasty snack and will be able to test their knowledge with the help of tests and games," said Olena Zelenska
The communication campaign regarding the reform, which was interrupted by the Russian attack, is being resumed.
"When we launched the reform before the war, we tried to inform parents, teachers and pupils about it as widely as possible. To tell what it means to eat healthy, high-quality and at the same time tasty food. And this is relevant at any time, because health does not become less important because of war. So, the campaign will be continued, but, of course, it will already be adapted to the conditions of today," said the First Lady.
7. The school menu will be able to become more diverse, because Yevhen Klopotenko's team has developed another 500 recipes for school meals - together with technological cards. For educational institutions, they will be available after passing the examination in the relevant institutions.
The First Lady also emphasized that not only the quality of education depends on nutrition, but also the health and psychological state of children. Especially now, when the youngest Ukrainians are already under too much stress because of the war. Therefore, the relevance of the reform is only increasing.