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Kitchens give hope to rural students at meal time

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-05 10:52
Kitchens give hope to rural students at meal time

Students are served with food at the first Kraft Kitchen in Anhui province. Provided to China Daily

A recent third-party report on the outcomes achieved by China Youth Development Foundation's Hope Kitchens found that the charity program works well to provide a safe and balanced diet to rural children, helping them avoid digestive diseases and malnutrition.

Jointly initiated by the foundation and Kraft Foods China in 2009, the program builds and equips kitchens in rural schools with standard cooking utensils, such as refrigerators, a disinfection cabinet, peeling machine and so on, so rural children who may not receive enough food at home can enjoy hot and healthy meals in schools.

It also educates rural school staff members and students on nutrition through games, nutrition guidelines, food safety practice posters and booklets.

"While children in cities worry about their weight and may suffer from over nutrition and obesity, their peers in the countryside are having problems eating enough and staying healthy," says Tu Meng, secretary-general with CYDF.

Tu notes that statistics show one out of five rural children suffer from malnutrition.

The reason, Tu says, is mostly because in rural areas it is common that several villages share one school, and for students whose homes are far away, they cannot have proper meals, and thus may easily fell prey to malnutrition, especially if the school has no kitchen or proper equipment.

Che Fei, vice-president of corporate and government affairs with Kraft Foods China, was shocked to discover that the majority of rural students she met in Yunnan province felt hungry and couldn't concentrate on study during class.

Most of the students looked much smaller than their age, Che adds.

"We felt urged to help those kids, but we decided not to simply donate food products on a one-off occasion and leave it at that," Che says.

"We want an urge to help in a more effective, fundamental and sustainable way."

After research and discussion, Kraft Foods China and CYDF launched a brand-new charity program: to equip a rural school with a standard modern kitchen, so that children can enjoy safe, healthy and hot meals.

The company donates money and the foundation cooperates with local government to select schools to build a modern kitchen.

In October 2009, the first Hope Kitchen was built in a rural primary school in Anhui province. Another 100 kitchens were built that same year.

There are now 918 Hope Kitchens across 21 provinces, with nine of them attached to a vegetable garden to provide for the kitchen, benefiting 450,000 rural children.

Dozens of other companies also take part in the program.

The report, based on surveys and talks conducted in 10 schools across five provinces by nutritionists with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was solid evidence to prove that children in schools equipped with a Hope Kitchen have better nutrition than those without a kitchen, and those children also feel happier.

"We hope our kitchens will provide rural children with hot meals, reduce their chance of getting diseases, and help them grow," says Che Fei, the vice-president.

"Now with the expanding number of Hope Kitchens, we can finally say that goal is getting closer and closer every day."

Kitchens give hope to rural students at meal time

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