COVID-19 support through take-home rations: The story of a school cook
03 June 2021
Uncle Aum Nang, 62, has been a cook for the UN/MoEYS school-feeding programme in Trapaing Arak Primary School in Kampong Thom province for four years now.
The school suspension in mid-March unexpectedly interrupted the job he loves. While he does not have to get up early to prepare breakfast for the children anymore, he feels that something is missing.
“Schools are very quiet compared to before. I miss the sound of the kids playing in the school compound; I miss the cooking and the vegetable preparation,” said Uncle Nang, as he showed off his kitchen facilities and school garden.
Since the closure of schools, Uncle Nang has also lost a part of his livelihood. His regular incentive of 30 to 40 kilograms of rice each month from the community to compensate for his volunteer time, and his $10.25 monthly salary from the commune council has also stopped.
After providing an initial take-home ration to scholarship students and their families in March, the UN and MoEYS realized that they neglected to support school cooks, who, although not direct beneficiaries, are the backbone of the school meals programme and are often poor themselves. The June distribution was improved to include all 2,109 school cooks from 1,113 primary schools in 10 provinces participating in the school meals programme.
Holding an IDPoor registration card, Uncle Nang and his family received two rations of 30 kilograms of rice and 2 litres of vegetable oil as a way to help ends meet in the absence of other income.
“I want to thank the donors who also thought of us. Besides cooking for the school, I also cook for Buddhist festivals and wedding ceremonies. COVID-19 means that not many people are getting married nor initiating any festivals. This has all impacted me, and these rations will help my family for a while,” said Uncle Nang as he pointed to the two rice bags and the oil bottles he received.
“But I want nothing more than to see schools re-open and to resume cooking for the kids,” he said. Uncle Nang is ready to get back to school and continue his contribution to school meals as soon as possible.