Amsterdam schools provide children with breakfast and food vouchers at school

One in twelve children in the Netherlands lives in poverty, according to statistics from the Fair Start Foundation. The Fair Start Foundation wants to ensure that all children who grow up in poverty in the Netherlands have a healthy start by providing breakfast and education on the value of a balanced diet.

The Foundation notes that in terms of education, social skills and health, children who live in poverty are less able to keep up with their peers intellectually and have a higher chance of becoming poor themselves. The Foundation collaborates with the corporate sector and educational institutions in order to accomplish its objectives. It’s currently expanding in the Netherlands and collaborating closely with schools in Amsterdam.

Children need a healthy breakfast to start the day with plenty of energy. Children need to be able to concentrate because they are still developing fully and move around a lot throughout the day, and take in impressions constantly. Children who skip breakfast lose out on the nutrition and energy it provides and are therefore unable to perform to their full potential at school. In a bid to tackle the issue of children not having sufficient nourishment, educational institutions are taking steps to provide free meals for children in Amsterdam.

The Fair Start Foundation explains that it is crucial that children have more knowledge about healthy nutrition. In addition to improving academic performance, good nutrition protects against the development of chronic ailments in later life. The Foundation has therefore established instructive nutrition classes at schools in association with the business community: business community volunteers assist students in the classroom while they are learning about nutrition.

Het Parool reports that educational institutions are observing a sharp increase in the number of children and adolescents who arrive at school on an empty stomach and go the entire day without eating. Schools in Amsterdam take action by providing food or food coupons. According to Amsterdam teachers, making provisions for breakfast and lunch is no longer essential only for the poorest families, but also for the middle class. Het Parool notes that upon visiting primary, secondary and MBO schools in Amsterdam, some children day that they have already eaten out of humiliation; others honestly say “there was no more bread.”

The basic requirements of young people in the Netherlands are a concern, according to government plans. The House of Representatives stated last month that it will release 100 million euros for free school lunches. Additionally, since the start of this month, students at 500 elementary schools are provided with a free school lunch each day. The government is currently debating whether secondary school pupils should receive free meals at school as well. But like many other school administrators, Maryse Knook, director of the Open School community Bijlmer (OSB) in Zuidoost Amsterdam, is not waiting. All children will receive breakfast at school after the autumn break.

According to Rian Horvers, counsellor at the Indische Buurtschool, such plans also have an effect on parents who are unable to send their kids to school with a full stomach and packed lunch. The primary school in Amsterdam-East told parents recently that it perceives that the recent period has grown financially more challenging ‘for all of us’. To help, the school has started a collaboration with two nearby businesses. All parents who require them can pick up two vouchers each week after the fall break: one for two loaves of bread at De Bakkers van Oost and one for spreads and fruit at the nearby grocery Lale Kasabi. Horvers says: “In this way, children get fruit, while parents maintain control. Fruit is often left out of the diet earlier, when parents have no more money; apples are more expensive than bread.”

 Written by Nicole Kerr