Friday, 30 March 2007

My first trip to a school lunch farm, Jae Lee School, Koh Lanta

My first trip to a school lunch farm, Jae Lee School, Koh Lanta
Fundraiser, Pattaya Orphanage Trust

Koh Lanta is two beautiful islands off the west coast of Southern Thailand, which are surrounded by limestone cliffs and crystal blue sea. It is hard to believe that just over two years ago a tsunami devastated these shores. This was my first visit to the affected areas, although I have written a lot about them. I am not sure what I expected, but I was struck by how peaceful and calm everywhere seemed.

One of the reasons for my trip to Koh Lanta was to visit Jae Lee School. Most of the children here are from poor families, and the tsunami made their situation much worse. Schoolchildren for Children, with the Pattaya Orphanage Trust, is helping the school to develop a lunch farm, so that the children can have at least one nutritious meal a day, as well as help to keep them at school.

When we arrived at the school the first thing I saw were little green leaves under white tents. These were the hydroponic tanks which are used to grow vegetables in water instead of soil so that they can grow them without using too much land. They are growing Bok Choi, Morning Glory, which is a vegetable that is used a lot in Thai cooking, and Chinese cabbage.

They also have a mushroom house, which is a small, dark hut. Inside there are 500 bags on racks. These bags now produce about 30 kilograms of mushrooms a week. The cooks at the school, who are some of the children’s mothers, use about 20 kilograms a week for lunches. They make vegetable stir-fries and soups, such as Tom Yam Soup. The rest of the mushrooms are sold to the parents and villagers, other schools in the area, and at market.

The farm needs a lot of looking after and the children like to get involved. We spoke to a girl called Ay who was 12 years old. She helps to take care of the mushrooms, and she said that she had to water them twice a week so that the bags stay wet. If they dry out the mushrooms don’t grow. She has brother and sisters at the school but they are too young to look after the mushrooms. Her parents are very glad that the school have a lunch farm because it means that their children can have a good lunch at school.

Find out more about school lunch farms on

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