Lebanon: Meals for Students, Income for Mothers

March 18, 2024

Snacks and meals provided through an IOCC school-meals program in Lebanon are ensuring that students, including these girls, can make the most of their education and dream big for the future.

The girls pictured above, ages 10–12, have big plans: Hadeel, 10, aspires to be a lawyer; Ritaj, 10, dreams of becoming an Arabic teacher; Loukaya, 12, plans to become a veterinarian; and Lynn and Jana, both 10, dream of becoming doctors. Those ambitions can now flourish because the girls receive meals at school that support their healthy development and help them make the most of their education.

This academic year, an IOCC program in Lebanon supported by l’Agence française de développement (AFD; the French development agency) is serving around 6,000 students across 13 public schools. Daily cheese sandwiches plus fruits or vegetables are all sourced from local small and medium-size enterprises. The program aims to reduce short-term hunger, lower students’ risk of dropping out, and improve their ability to concentrate by ensuring they don’t go hungry during the school day.

In addition, over 100 mothers work in the kitchens to prepare the meals, earning additional income to help them support their families. Rima, 40, is one of them. She works in the kitchen of a North Lebanon school that serves 500 students, both Lebanese and refugees, in grades 1–9. Rima joined the program to help support her family financially, and she describes it as well-organized and structured.

“This job motivates me because I can fulfill my family’s needs,” she told staff. “It [covers] 70% of my home expenses and has enabled me to afford necessities that were otherwise out of reach, like food and other household essentials. Additionally, I’ve gained valuable experience in food safety and handling.”

In all, this IOCC program is creating earning opportunities for women and ensuring that students have a better shot at shaping the future they dream of.