Dried fruits and vegetables improve school meals in rural Armenian
08 October 2021
Two secondary schools in Armenia’s Ararat marz build fruit and vegetable dryers with FAO support.
FAO is opening fruit and vegetable dryers in two rural schools in Armenia’s Ararat region with the goal of increasing schoolchildren’s dietary diversity and improving their nutrition. The two fruit and vegetable drying facilities – in the public schools of Vedi N1 and Lusarat – are equipped with up-to-date industrial fruit and vegetable drying equipment, designed to increase efficiency of drying process, reduce wastage, and improve storage condition.
It is expected that this year, the schools will produce more than 1 500 kg natural dried fruits (apples, plums, apricots, and many others). According to preliminary calculations, about half of the total production will be used to add value to the school meals during the first three years of operation, the rest can be sold at the local market.
“We already have a certain quantity of dried peach, and we expect even bigger quantities of dried apple and plum, the sales of which can bring quite a serious financial revenue to the school,” said Vergine Araqelyan, Lusarat school director. “The school staff and the community express their gratitude to FAO for this huge support.”
This pilot is part of a complex project that aims at strengthening food security and nutrition in selected countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, funded by the Russian Federation and implemented by FAO. It will serve as a model that can be replicated to ensure the sustainability of the national school feeding programme in Armenia, as well as in the whole Eurasian region.
The project has renovated the production premises at the selected schools in line with the food safety standards and requirements, procured equipment, tools and inputs for the production unit. The production capacity of the dried fruit and vegetable unit is 300 kg per hour.
“With establishing the drying units in two schools, FAO aims not only to improve nutritional value of the school meals with dried fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and minerals that adds health benefits, but also providing schools and children with a practical, engaging agricultural and entrepreneurial experience,” said Zaruhi Beglaryan, FAO National Project Coordinator.
The support to schools also includes a comprehensive training program for the responsible school staff on operating, managing and marketing the dried fruit and vegetable production. The training topics related to drying technology, packaging, food safety, quality standards, production planning, and products marketing.
The production of dried fruits has a long tradition in Armenia. The fruits and vegetables grown in the country have a unique taste and aroma thanks to the geographic location and environmental conditions, ensuring lots of sunshine and good water. All these allow growing apricots, pears, apples, peaches, red and black plums, and other fruits. Dried fruits are rich in vitamins and mineral elements, containing approximately 250 kcal and 1.5-5 g protein per 100 g. They have a long shelf life and do not require cool storage. This is one of their main advantages, and in this respect, they are a good alternative to fresh fruits during the non-harvest season.