As part of the John Keells Group’s commitment to provide solutions to the prevalent food crisis, John Keells Foundation – the Group’s CSR entity – partnered the Ministry of Education, on its School Meal Programme, to support and expand its implementation. Titled as ‘Pasal Diriya’, the programme will provide nutritious meals on school days to children, through a pilot in 12 selected schools situated in locations of key businesses of the John Keells Group. Supporting businesses of the Group include Ceylon Cold Stores (Elephant House), Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, John Keells Properties and the Group’s Transportation sector. The initiative is expected to provide over 3000 meals daily, to children from the 12 selected schools in the Western, Southern and Eastern Provinces and in addition plans to extend it to selected pre-schools by providing meals to over 1000 pre-school children in various parts of the country.
The ‘Pasal Diriya’ Programme was launched at a ceremony held in commemoration of National Children’s Day on 03rd October 2022 at Nuga Gama, Cinnamon Grand Colombo with the participation of the Minister of Education, Hon. (Dr.) Susil Premajayantha, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Education (Primary Education & Education Services), Y. M. M. S. Yapa, John Keells Group Chairperson Krishan Balendra, respective Sector Heads, Provincial and Zonal Education Directors and School Principals of the selected schools.
“The food crisis in Sri Lanka has become a nationwide challenge calling for urgent action from all sectors of society. According to a recent report by UNICEF, Sri Lanka has the 2nd highest malnutrition rate in South Asia, with 7 out of 10 families cutting down their food intake. School children have been severely affected by the crisis. With as many as one million children relying on the free school meals provided by the Government, we have been concerned to note that there has been a significant increase in the number of dropouts after the suspension of the programme due to lack of funding. The ‘Pasal Diriya’ programme is intended to bridge the gap while building a sustainable model to reduce child malnutrition, ensure higher school attendance and create a positive impact on overall learning. This programme is part of the John Keells Group’s multi-pronged crisis response initiative that also includes farmer support, home gardening and scholarship programmes,” said Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility of John Keells Holdings PLC.
In view of the growing economic crisis in Sri Lanka which continues to worsen food security woes, triggered by hyperinflation including high food and fuel prices, the John Keells Group’s response to the food crisis is designed to address the immediate food crisis in the short term and offer viable solutions to manage food security issues in the longer term, whilst addressing critical educational needs of children and youth. The ‘Pasal Diriya’ programme is modelled to include the provision of funds for the preparation and distribution of meals for students not covered under the existing government school meal programme, to construct or equip a kitchen facility within the school premises where possible and to strengthen the network of the respective schools for the preparation and distribution of meals within the Government’s School Meal Programme.
“This unfortunate situation calls for a sustainable mechanism to improve the wellbeing of school going children across the nation. School children of this age require ample nutrition for physical and psychological growth. As such, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, I am thankful for the John Keells Group’s partnership to expand our School Meal Programme. At this critical juncture in the country, it is imperative that all parties come together to help our children’s physical and psychological wellbeing,” commented Minister of Education, Hon. (Dr.) Susil Premajayantha.
John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) is Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate in the Colombo Stock Exchange operating over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. With a history of over 150 years, John Keells Group provides employment to over 14,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for the last 17 years by LMD Magazine. Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a Participant of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow” through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, ‘Plasticcycle’, which is a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.