First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in a meeting on the implementation of the School Meals Reform Strategy approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in late October. The event was held in Kyiv under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The meeting was attended by representatives of the government, the Office of the President, relevant government agencies and bodies, as well as international non-governmental organizations and embassies, including Switzerland, Germany, France and Italy.
The participants were briefed on the strategy of the reform, developed with the support and assistance of the Swiss-Ukrainian project DECIDE, and its four main objectives. The interim results of the reform and further steps to be taken to achieve the results envisaged by the strategy were also discussed.
"Our goal is to provide diverse, balanced and high-quality meals in schools and preschool institutions. I urge all those responsible to get involved, including communities, because it is up to them to implement practical steps," said Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
The reform of school meals began in 2020 at the initiative of First Lady Olena Zelenska. In the same year, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted the Resolution "On Approval of the Action Plan for Reforming the School Meals System." Work on the Strategy began in the winter of 2023, and in late February it was submitted to the government for consideration. On October 27, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the document.
For the coming years, the Strategy should become a roadmap for the implementation of the reform for all its participants - from central executive authorities to representatives of local governments. Based on it, communities can develop regional strategies for implementing changes on the ground.
"We started the school meals reform, so to speak, in another life - in 2020. Even then, we faced many challenges. It turned out that we would have to change the sanitary regulations for educational institutions, the government's resolution on nutritiology and the procedure for organizing school meals. Not only did we have to change and update the menu, retrain cooks, and upgrade equipment, but most importantly, we had to change the psychology. The beliefs of teachers, parents, families, and the whole society. I am grateful to all the participants of the reform for the fact that we have continued it together during the full-scale invasion. We did not give up. We realized that the school needs development right now," Olena Zelenska said.
She emphasized that the reform is necessary for Ukrainian families to see development and understand that their children are taken care of, that the state has the resources and desire not only to survive during the war, but also to develop and give its citizens the best.
"The strategy of the reform is a guide, a map, a pointer, a navigator in the implementation of the reform. The work on it involved both relevant ministries and government agencies, as well as representatives of our partners and activists. The reform has united the whole country, its civil society and government sectors in its own way. Any reform is a collective effort and a collective responsibility," the First Lady said.
The strategy sets out an action plan for 2023-2024 and four main goals of the reform by 2027:
- Sufficient financial resources for customers to procure food or catering services and to make purchases simply and efficiently.
- Renovation and modernization of canteens in educational institutions using the latest technological processes, improving energy efficiency and compliance with the HACCP system.
- Providing local governments and educational institutions with a sufficient number of qualified staff to organize high-quality and safe catering and promote healthy eating habits among students.
- Conscious choice of healthy food by Ukrainians.
The strategic goal of implementing changes in these areas is to ensure diverse, balanced and high-quality nutrition in educational institutions, contributing to the social protection of vulnerable groups and developing healthy eating habits among children and adults.
"We are raising a healthy generation, a healthy society, preparing the future right now. Because it will only be what we make it," Olena Zelenska said.
Among the organizations that have contributed to the implementation of the reform, the President's wife named UNICEF in Ukraine, the Swiss-Ukrainian DECIDE project, the Howard Buffett Foundation, the Embassy of Switzerland in Ukraine, the Embassy of Estonia in Ukraine, the UN World Food Program in Ukraine, the World Health Organization, and "Act for Health". Olena Zelenska urged the attendees to join the reform and become partners for a healthy future of children and Ukraine.