School meals boost education, communities and economies

To mark World Food Day last week, Carmen Burbano of the United Nations World Food Programme looks at new evidence of the huge benefits of feeding children at school.

Education has huge benefits for nutrition, as the EFA Global Monitoring Report team’s Education Transforms booklet shows. If all mothers had primary education, we could save 1.7 million children from being stunted, or short for their age. The connection works the other way, too, and nowhere is this clearer than in the benefits of providing children with meals at school in parts of the world where hunger is a daily reality.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Mothers all over the world have told me how much peace of mind they get from knowing their child will have a school meal. Now we have evidence to show that school meals are also a good investment. The United Nations World Food Programme’s recently released report State of School Feeding Worldwide finds that finds that for every dollar spent on school feeding, at least three are gained in the form of various economic returns.

School feeding has numerous benefits. By boosting education, it breaks the intergenerational cycle of hunger and malnutrition. School meals help make children healthy, providing them with the micronutrients they need to develop and learn. And educated mothers are more likely to ensure their children are well nourished.

Worldwide, 368 million children receive a meal at school every day, with an annual investment estimated at US$75 billion. WFP supports governments in reaching 7% of these children – about 25 million in 2012 – mostly in low income countries, where school feeding coverage is lowest and needs are greatest.

In emergencies and in times of crisis, school feeding is one of the best safety nets. It brings a touch of normality when families are forced to flee their homes, as we have been able to see with Syrians in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Knowing their children will be fed at school can help parents to rebuild their lives after an earthquake, as we saw in Haiti.

Because they represent a huge market for produce, school meals can also make a difference for communities, for the livelihoods of farmers, and for the creation of small businesses, many of them run by women. The agriculture team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided leadership in helping women benefit from the school feeding market, especially through support to the Purchase For Progress programme of WFP and the Home Grown School Feeding Programme of the Partnership for Child Development.

WFP and Timor Education Ministry Provide Meals to Schoolchildren

WFP and Timor Education Ministry Provide Meals to Schoolchildren

Partners like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Brazil are also supporting with initiatives like the Purchasing from Africans for Africa, which aims to support countries in making the link between school feeding and local agricultural production.

But providing meals alone is not enough. The schools where WFP works often lack proper classrooms, teachers who are trained, and textbooks. That is why WFP has embarked on an enhanced partnership with UNICEF and UNESCO – the Nourishing Bodies, Nourishing Minds initiative – to remove barriers that prevent children learning. That means expanding access to early childhood care and education; improving enrolment rates of girls in school, particularly adolescent girls; and working with communities to build environments conducive to learning.

WFP is also working with partners to help countries develop sustainable school meal programmes. Drawing on the success of Brazil in developing one of the world’s largest school meal programmes, WFP opened a Centre of Excellence Against Hunger, in partnership with Brazil, in 2011. The Centre is a hub for knowledge sharing to inspire governments to invest in school meals.

Governments increasingly understand that poor families struggling to put food on the table sometimes have to decide between sending their child to school or to work in the fields. Strong school feeding programmes can sway those parents towards a choice that will nourish rather than limit their child’s potential.

Carmen Burbano, a policy officer and school feeding specialist at the United Nations World Food Programme, is lead author of State of School Feeding Worldwide (2013). 

This entry was posted in Aid, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Economic growth, Famine, Health, Learning, Nutrition, Poverty, Refugees and displaced people. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to School meals boost education, communities and economies

  1. bjoyce12 says:

    Reblogged this on Our Global Classroom and commented:
    5/6J here is an inspiring article to read in your independent reading time. Tell me some key facts and explain your thinking for what you have found interests you.

    Like

  2. Lynn says:

    With one in six people in the US currently struggling with food insecurity issues, we ought to be taking a closer look at this in our own country. We seem to have the incorrect perception that these problems are only occurring in developing nations.

    Like

  3. Mikemilton says:

    this is really good idea to provide food during school hours.. its help to poor students and some other students who not get proper food.. so they all come for food and also became educated and i hope that if once we became successful to make all of them educated than surely we develop a new well developed country..

    Like

  4. JEO says:

    I’m originally from Africa and I’m glad to read this article! I will probably reblogged this article on http://www.MyLessonz.com to show the rich Gulf countries that Education is fundamental!

    Of course, it’s always easier to learn and go to school with a full stomach.

    Danton said in french: ” Après le pain, l’éducation est le premier besoin du peuple” which could be translated in English as: “After bread, Education is the primary need of the People”

    Like

  5. Andry says:

    The Edu-Curator Foundation is removing barriers of class and privilege and to trigger a positive change. We believe that access to basic education is the right of each individual ,we focus on the character building of students to equip them with high moral values and confidence to achieve these goals, the Edu-Curator Foundation is constantly surveying education-deprived locations in Pakistan to extend its network, of each new location is appraised through an extensive land survey, assessment of population, income level, number and standard of existing schools in the area, demand for new school units, availability of an accessible site to build a school, qualified teachers in the area and a number of other criteria.

    Like

  6. Meats Romajai says:

    Good morning

    Receive warm greetings from Rom-ajaay in the north west region of Cameroon. I am the director of MEATS  mechanical engineering and technical services kumbo. During the past years we have noticed this phenomenon in our locality where children that are not brilliant in school are being sent to do mechanics or carpenter work. And in their respective work place they don’t do well at all because they left their primary education with no notion on how to read and write. This has been the case with apprentices in MEATS, we have been trying to offer classes to them and this has not been easy. We therefore decided to work with schools  in other to avoid this type of things and also sensitise  the youths on the importance of education why not read and write. The burden have become so much for us and we plead on you to please suggest what we can do to help this situation out.

    thanks

    director MEATS contact: 33202557 more info: http://www.meatsrom.blogspot.com

    Like

  7. Benazeer says:

    The Edu-Curator Foundation is removing barriers of class and privilege and to trigger a positive change. We believe that access to basic education is the right of each individual ,we focus on the character building of students to equip them with high moral values and confidence to achieve these goals, the Edu-Curator Foundation is constantly surveying education-deprived locations in Pakistan to extend its network, of each new location is appraised through an extensive land survey, assessment of population, income level, number and standard of existing schools in the area, demand for new school units, availability of an accessible site to build a school, qualified teachers in the area and a number of other criteria.

    Like

  8. Wambui Munge says:

    Great post! One commenter’s statement “Learning is always easier on a full-stomach”, certainly rings true. Re-blogged at http://www.educationinnovations.org/

    Like

  9. joy winsly says:

    Fantastic post! It is great job done for your organization. Its help so many countries where famishment is main reason of illiteracy measure in African and Asian country

    Like

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