SIMPSON BAY - Thousands of public elementary school children across St. Maarten are now receiving one hot meal a day from the Red Cross St. Maarten and Open-House, a Dutch innovation platform for the festival industry. It is an expansion of a programme which has been distributing breakfast and lunch to 4,800 pupils in 17 public elementary schools for the past two weeks, with support from the Government of St. Maarten.
The programme ensures students who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma have at least two hearty, healthy meals a day. Breakfast consists of fruit and cereal, or sandwiches, while lunch is made up of chicken, rice and vegetables.
“It’s so important for the development of children that they receive adequate nutrition,” says Pamela Riley, who heads up the hurricane response for the Netherlands Red Cross. “When they go to school on a full stomach, they are able to better concentrate on their studies, and that bodes well for their future.”
In the lead-up to the launch of the programme, Open-House volunteers distributed hot lunches at Leonald Conner Primary School. “The children are very grateful and parents appreciate it because some are having a tough time,” says Alice Samuel, manager of Leonald Conner School.
Sundial School, which offers studies related to the hospitality industry, was heavily damaged by the Category 5 hurricane. Before it could be selected as a viable location for meal preparation, Dutch military personnel fixed the roof and the kitchen was restored. All meals are now prepared in the Sundial School kitchen and are transported to the primary schools in small trucks.
The programme will run through January 2018 at which point the Red Cross and Open-House will have provided approximately 500,000 meals to elementary school children.