Educators in Haiti are scrambling to feed their students after a shocking and surprise announcement from Port au Prince. Just weeks before school terms began last September the government announced that only national schools would be eligible to receive food aid for student lunches. The announcement reversed a long policy of providing school lunch assistance to all students, including those in parochial and private schools.
Haiti’s government relies on international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to supply and deliver the food for student lunches. These organizations, led by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), have fallen in line with the policy change without regard for the thousands of children who will now go hungry each day.
Since the announcement, WFP officials have refused to meet with local leaders and educators, including our partners at the Green Schools Network, an association of 65 schools in the rural region surrounding Gros-Morne. The Network is made up of public, private, and parochial schools with a shared commitment to ecological restoration. Earlier this year we received an urgent request from our partners for grassroots action here in the United States.
Administrators at the Green Schools now say that parents of children in parochial and private schools feel as though they have no recourse. For many children, their school lunch is the only consistent meal of the day, and they rely on the calories from that meal to carry them through lean times. There have been discussions among many parents about how they might go about protesting the discriminatory policy, but local leaders have discouraged this course of action because they fear that the protests could pit parochial and private school families against national school families.
All accredited schools in the United States are able to participate in the federal school lunches program and receive subsidies to feed their students, regardless of religious affiliation. This ensures that children across the country have access to free or reduced price lunches each day. This was also the case in Haiti until the policy change before this school year.
The World Food Programme exercises great discretion in the distribution of food aid. A decision by WFP offi cials could reverse this new discriminatory policy, but so far they have lacked the necessary resolve and have refused to meet with local leaders. Now, we are asking for your help in restoring equality by lobbying the responsible World Food Programme official directly.
Cedric Charpentier is the WFP representative in Gonaives, an urban hub near Gros-Morne. His office has the authority to restore school lunch assistance to all schools. Please send him an e-mail urging him to meet with local leaders and the administrators of the Green Schools Network. You can click here to send a form email via our website.