TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization) and the European Union (EU) have embarked on a new plan to promote food and nutrition education for the Syrian children through school gardens, a report said.

According to a press release published by the FAO Representation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with around half of the Syrian population in need of food support and some 7 million people food insecure, young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition, which can have serious and long-lasting effects on their growth and future development.

As schools resume next week in Syria, thousands of school children are benefiting from a food and nutrition education program that is using school gardens to teach students about the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption as part of a balanced and healthy diet.

“The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children,” said Adam Yao, acting FAO Representative in Syria. “But through these school gardens, children are now learning about key concepts related to food and nutrition while they also have access to nutritious fruit and vegetables.”

This is the first time school gardens have been introduced in Syria at the primary school level, with 300 teachers trained in 17 schools, including in conflict-affected Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib and Rural Damascus. Through the program, more than 3,400 children get to learn about food and nutrition and, at the same time, eat more fruit and vegetables. This initiative is part of a broader, European Union-funded USD6.5 million program to bolster food security in conflict-torn Syria.

“Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases and is important for children to be able to lead an active and healthy life.”

“Often schools are the only place where children acquire important life skills, so these school gardens are a powerful tool for not only improving children’s nutrition, but also for helping them to develop and grow,” he said.

With the inputs provided, each school has developed a school garden of approximately 500 square meters, equipped with water tanks and a drip irrigation system. With support from FAO and a local NGO taking care of the day-to-day production, the school gardens have collectively produced approximately 12 tons of fruit and vegetables.

The project is being implemented with facilitation support from UNICEF, and WFP’s school meals program, and will soon be scaled up to a further 35 schools in Aleppo and Rural Damascus thanks to additional funding from the Government of Japan.