Free Lunchtime Meals Program in Verviers District: Promoting Equal Opportunities for Students

2023-09-14 15:45:00

Since the start of the week, 14 primary and nursery schools in the Verviers district have benefited from free lunchtime meals. Namely eight schools in Dison, two in Pepinster, one in Verviers, one in Spa, one in Dolhain and one in Herve, i.e. 1,605 students in total in the Verviers district. “For the moment, these are the least advantaged schools”underlines Minister Frédéric Daerden (PS), in charge of the Budget and Equal Opportunities.

Parents receive the menus two weeks in advance to avoid food waste. ©EdA LABEYE Philippe

In total, 582,000 euros are allocated to the Verviers region. “Given the success of the previous project, I wanted to develop it. Today, more than 21 million euros are devoted to these free meals in nursery schools but also in primary schools. And we can see it today “Today, there is great enthusiasm. And I am also going to include it in a decree to be able to perpetuate the operation.”

Minister Daerden joined in the fun and served a few meals to the students. ©EdA LABEYE Philippe

Balanced meals

This Thursday, September 14, Minister Daerden went to the Wegnez Red Cross municipal school to meet students and teachers at lunchtime. On the menu, it was goulash, potatoes and green beans. Meals at the Wegnez school are delivered by the Blue Lagoon, a local company to promote the short circuit. The menus are offered two weeks in advance to parents to allow them to choose. “We try as much as possible to make them aware of food waste. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it has to be wasted. We’re working to adapt the quantities according to each student. For example, we’re going to test this week smaller portions for first and second primary school pupils”details a teacher.

The mayor of Pepinster was also present to help the minister in distributing meals. ©EdA LABEYE Philippe

Since free admission has been extended to all students, “we had a considerable increase in meal orders”, notes director Valérie Kroujakis. Meals are varied and always composed of starchy foods, vegetables and meat or fish.

More equality

This is already the third year that the Wegnez Red Cross municipal school has benefited from free meals. The first year, it was only nursery school children, then it was the 1st and 2nd primary schools who benefited from it and, this year, a total of around a hundred students benefited from these hot meals. “I think it helps a lot of families who still have certain difficulties and it restores equality”underlines the director.

On the ground, the children are delighted with these hot meals at lunchtime. ©EdA LABEYE Philippe

The number of students has doubled in nursery school and increased by 20% in primary school, adds the director. Minister Daerden was warmly thanked by the students in song and a gift was given. “Every child has access to a full meal every day, a balanced diet and what’s more, how good is it! Thank you Mr. Darden”declared one of them on behalf of all the others.

The students had prepared a song, a little letter and a gift for Minister Frédéric Daerden. ©EdA LABEYE Philippe
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