John Keells Group’s School Meal Programme Marks One Year of Empowering the Education and Nutrition of School Children.

“Almost half of the children in Sri Lanka already require some form of emergency assistance. The education of 4.8 million children, already severely hampered by two years of interrupted learning, is at risk as school attendance continues to be jeopardised. Children’s education is being hindered by the current crisis in many ways—children no longer get the warm and nutritious school meal that they used to have before the crisis ….”, said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, after visiting Sri Lanka in August 2022.

The multi-pronged Crisis Response Initiative, which was rolled out by the John Keells Group at the onset of the economic crisis, included projects executed under three key areas: Health & Nutrition, Education and Livelihood Development. A key programme under Health & Nutrition, the John Keells School Meal Programme (Pasal Diriya) was organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education and launched on 3rd October 2022 to coincide with the commemoration of National Children’s Day. Over the past year, the programme has been instrumental in making a significant difference in the lives of thousands of children in multiple locations across the country.

The John Keells School Meal Programme continues to be driven by John Keells Foundation (JKF), the CSR entity of the John Keells Group, with active involvement of Group businesses Ceylon Cold Stores (Elephant House), Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Jaykay Marketing Services (Keells) and John Keells Properties. Since its launch, the programme has not only provided nutritious meals to school children but has also contributed significantly to enhancing their school attendance, participation in academic, and extra-curricular activities as well as overall well-being. Keells has strengthened its ‘Meal Card’ initiative thanks to the support of the contributions of customers and donors through their crowd funding platform as well as the collaborative efforts of a strong team of partners including their implementation partner Sarvodaya.

Since its inception, the School Meal Programme has provided 469,812 nutritious meals to 4,187 school children and pre-school children from 12 selected schools in the Eastern, Southern and Western Provinces as well as 34 pre-schools in the Central, North-Central, North-Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern and Western Provinces. A total investment of over 52M has been made on the programme which includes construction or refurbishment and equipping of 10 school kitchens and 31 community gardens to facilitate preparation of nutritious and balanced meals.

“Children are more active in school and although there aren’t any formal sports activities offered at the school, we have observed increased student participation in sports during their breaks.”​ the Principal of Maryam Girl’s School, Colombo 02​ said.

Aysha Rilwan, a parent and a school meal supplier said, “Due to challenges of not having enough food, fewer students were attending school. But ever since they started receiving nutritious meals from the John Keells School Meal Programme, we have noticed a significant increase in children’s school attendance as a result of being able to eat a meal at school.”

JKF has incorporated various sustainability measures to enhance the sustenance and sustainable transition of this programme, particularly through the provision of school kitchens and strengthening of support systems within and outside the schools, demonstrating its commitment to empowering communities to be more proactive and self-reliant.

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