MARACAIBO, Venezuela (AP) — The food assistance agency of the United Nations announced Thursday that its first shipments of supplies for vulnerable Venezuelan school children have arrived in the troubled South American country.
The World Food Program will begin operations in Venezuela by providing children take-home packages that include rice, lentils, salt and vegetable oil. The agency earlier this year reached an agreement with the government of President Nicolas Maduro that allows it to provide school meals, though classrooms are currently closed.
The agency said it will prioritize children under the age of 6 in communities with the highest prevalence of food insecurity and aims to provide 42,000 packages in the first month. Food supplies were being kept at a logistics hub in the northwest city of Maracaibo, about 435 miles (700 km) west of Caracas, the capital.
Under the agreement signed in April, the agency plans to gradually expand programs to reach 1.5 million children by the end of the 2022-2023 school year, up from 185,000 children this year.
The agency will provide school meals, invest in remodeling school cafeterias and will train staff in food safety standards.
Venezuela has been grappling with soaring food prices amid hyperinflation, making it challenging for families to afford nutritious meals.
The Rome-based agency has estimated that one of every three Venezuelans is struggling to consume enough daily calories.