Tokyo Cement Group recently extended its “Nourishing the Future” school nutrition program by adding 179 students from four schools in Siyambalanduwa in the Monaragala District. The initiative includes primary grade students of Wattegama Sirimal Kanista Vidyalaya in Kotiyagala, Bambaragasroda Kanista Vidyalaya in Siyambalanduwa, and Barawaya Primary School and Danakiriya Kanista Vidyalaya in Kandaudapanguwa, who now receive a balanced mid-day meal on all five days of the week through this scheme.
Tokyo Cement was silently operating this benevolent social upliftment program for several years in the past, where they provided mid-day meals to over 300 students of Thiriyaya Maha Vidyalaya in Trincomalee. With the addition of Monaragala schools, Tokyo Cement Group’s “Nourishing the Future” mid-day meal program now touches the lives of over 475 schoolchildren hailing from backgrounds of reduced circumstances.
Mr. Praveen Gnanam, Director Innovations, Tokyo Cement Group, commenting on the expansion of this far-reaching initiative said, “The purpose of this program is to address the childhood malnutrition epidemic that has grown exponentially over the course of this year. Left unchecked, malnutrition has the potential to cause both mental and physiological developmental diseases for future generations. Furthermore, parents are more likely to send their children to school if they are fed, thereby increasing access to education for those most impacted by the economic crisis.”
The daily meal plans follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education, to ensure all main food groups consisting of greens, pulses, a fresh dairy product and a locally sourced fruit is included therein, to supplement their diet and fulfil the children’s nutritional growth needs. To ensure the students receive a wholesome lunch on a consistent basis and the children’s growth milestones are achieved progressively, Tokyo Cement has implemented a comprehensive monitoring process with help from each schools’ administration, parent groups, Zonal Director of the Ministry of Education and local health officers attached to the Ministry of Health.
The Zonal Educational Director played a key role in coordinating the program between the schools’ authorities and Tokyo Cement. On ground, the program is executed under the supervision of the principal and teachers in each school, whilst voluntary teams of parents help prepare the meals. Tokyo Cement has also stepped up the program by supplying the basic utensils and amenities required, to standardize each school kitchen to operate under optimal hygienic conditions during food preparation. The local Public Health Inspectors supervise the program by visiting the schools on a regular basis to ensure the meals are prepared adhering to strict health guidelines.
This compassionate endeavour was started by Tokyo Cement Group’s Founder Chairman, Deshamanya A.Y.S. Gnanam, who during his time saw the importance of providing a healthy meal to schoolchildren from low-income families to encourage school attendance as a much-needed boost to complete their primary education. Tokyo Cement Group’s decision to expand the program comes at a time when several international agencies such as UNICEF and the WB have flagged the rising rates of malnutrition and growth deficiencies among children in all parts of Sri Lanka, especially in low-income segments, due to the rapid rise of food inflation. The Nourishing the Future school nutrition program addresses this issue with a tangible solution that lifts a huge burden off the parents, who are on a daily struggle to provide a square meal for their children amidst dire economic conditions.
The program is among the many social empowerment projects deployed by the Company with a profound impact on the lives of the people of our country. Tokyo Cement Group’s commitment to social responsibility breathes life through initiatives such as this, by which they have successfully integrated social welfare and environmental conservation into its corporate DNA, as part of the vision to become the leading partner in Nation-building.