It is estimated that some 66 million primary-school-age children go hungry every day, with 23 million hungry children in Africa alone. Some 80 per cent of these 66 million children are concentrated within 20 countries. Additionally, 75 million school-age children (55 per cent of them girls) do not attend school; 47 per cent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Research shows that providing in-school meals, mid-morning snacks and take-home rations through school feeding programmes can alleviate short- term hunger and increase childrens abilities to concentrate, learn and perform specific tasks. It has also been linked to an increase in the enrolment of girls. These effects seem to be greater among children who are also chronically undernourished, usually the poorest children. (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:22705274~menuPK:282424~pagePK:6402086 5~piPK:149114~theSitePK:282386,00.html)
Towards a Solution
Since 2009, the Brazilian School Feeding initiative has successfully addressed this issue and inspired others. The model uses school feeding as a social safety net that ensures education and health for the most vulnerable children, thereby increasing enrolment rates, reducing absenteeism and improving food security at the household level. School feeding is now changing the way in which the poorest countries address the combined challenges of hunger, education and small-scale agricultural production, building on the successes, lessons and structures in countries of the South such as Brazil.
Since 2009, with funding from the National Fund for Educational Development, the initiative has supported school feeding programmes to advance the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean 2025 initiative. It focuses on sharing Brazilian knowledge, technical know-how, policies and practices for school feeding with 14 countries. Through it, technical support and experiences are being exchanged with each of the countries concerned, engaging more than 5,200 qualified experts.
The initiative takes a holistic approach that puts national and local governments in charge of school feeding, focused on improving food access and availability, enhancing farmers productivity, providing technical assistance for policy and programming, and supporting the building and sharing of knowledge. School feeding ensures: (a) good food: making sure that school meals are provided to all students, as a matter of public policy, through systematic, continuous programmes with guaranteed government resources; (b) strengthened capacities: of institutions as well as the skills of managers and technicians involved; (c) community incentives: establishing school feeding initiatives, such as public buyers of locally produced food from family farmers; (d) broad participation: involving a wide range of community and government actors, including civil society, cooperatives and parliaments, contributing to the design and implementation of school feeding policies and practices; and (e) appropriate policies: articulating school feeding policy alongside other policies, programmes and actions that strengthen food security at the country level.
In Africa and Latin America, more than 150,000 schoolchildren have benefited from healthy food during school days, leading to their better health and higher rates of school attendance. Partner countries have created school feeding policies and provided hundreds of schools with locally purchased food and improved infrastructure and skills. School feeding also reduces the costs of sending girls to school, thereby allowing for their increased attendance rates and improving gender equality. Since its inception, this initiative has: (a) guaranteed regular school meals and improved the nutritional status of children; (b) improved the school-feeding legal framework in participating countries; (c) raised awareness of the problem and the solution; (d) integrated school feeding into the human rights framework; (e) elicited broad participation; (f ) renewed interest in gardening as a means of learning about food and hygiene; (g) made participating schools model schools; and (h) created a new South-South experience sharing model.
School feeding uses on-site meals that children consume at school along with take-home rations containing basic food items for home consumption. Many countries have adopted home-grown school feeding that requires the majority of food distributed to schools to be locally grown, thereby combining better health and nutrition for children with smallholder farmers access to markets.
School feeding programmes are community-specific and require good planning and a steady flow of financial and human resources to ensure sustainability. They are also context-specific, so each community should alter them based on local demographics, geography and other patterns. Countries must determine if school feeding is the most effective approach to tackling the needs of the children in their communities who are the neediest. Building on the success of the initiative, the stage is set to scale up and further strengthen school feeding, its policies and institutions in already- participating and in additional countries. The aim is to continue to scale up school feeding to 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2017.
Children in schools are the main beneficiaries, while the Governments of participating countries and non- governmental organizations are the main national partners. In Brazil, the National Fund for Educational Development provides financing while the Ministry of Education, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and the Ministry of External Relations set up the policy framework and lead the South-South exchange component. FAO and WFP provide technical support and expertise.
Contact: FAO: Ms. Najla Veloso, Najla.Veloso@fao.org or TCSS-Chief@fao.org
Project name: School Feeding
Countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia (Plurinational State of ), Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Malawi, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, Senegal, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of )
Sustainable Development Goal target: 2.1, 2.2, 4.1, 5.c
Supported by: National Fund for Educational Development, Ministry of Education of Brazil, FAO and WFP
Implementing entities: FAO, WFP
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2009 to 2025, as part of the Zero Hunger Initiative
URL of the practice: https://www.wfp.org/school-meals
Related resources: Brazil-FAO Strengthening School Feeding Programmes; FAO Brazilian School Feeding Model booklet; Organization of American States.