New Data Highlights National Meal Program Successes and Challenges
National school feeding programs have contributed to higher primary school enrollment and retention in Sub-Saharan African countries, and created jobs within the communities they serve, according to newly-released analysis of global school feeding programs.
Produced in response to demand from governments and development partners, The Global School Feeding Sourcebook: Lessons from 14 Countries, analyzes a range of government-led school feeding programs to provide decision-makers and practitioners worldwide with the knowledge, evidence and good practices needed to bolster their national school feeding efforts. With case studies from countries including Botswana, Cabo Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa, the Sourcebook highlights the tradeoffs associated with alternative school feeding models, and analyzes overarching themes, trends and challenges across them.
According to the analysis, the strongest and most sustainable programs are those that respond to a community need, are locally-owned and incorporate some form of parental or community involvement. In Namibia, communities are expected to provide fuel, cooking utensils and storerooms. In Mali, school feeding programs have put schools at the heart of local development by promoting locally-owned meal programs. In Ghana, the government uses a digital school meals planner to develop nutritionally balanced school meals using local ingredients.
With school feeding's proven ability to improve the health and education of children while supporting local and national economies and food security, school feeding programs exist in almost every country in the world for which there is data, for a total annual global investment of $75 billion. This provides an estimated 368 million children worldwide with a meal at school daily. However, too often, such programs are weakest in countries where there is the most need.
In a joint foreword, World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim and World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said the research showed how school meals programs help to get children into the classroom and keep them there, "contributing to their learning by avoiding hunger and advancing cognitive abilities."
"Today, national school feeding programmes are increasingly embedded in national policy on poverty elimination, social protection, education and nutrition," they added.
Lesley Drake, Imperial College London's Partnership for Child Development's executive director and lead editor of the report said, "The overall message from this research is that there is no 'one size fits all' for school feeding and there are many routes to success. Context is key. This sourcebook will act as valuable tool for governments to enable them to make evidenced-based decisions that will improve the effectiveness of their school feeding programs."
The Sourcebook follows Rethinking School Feeding (WB, 2009) and The State of School Feeding Worldwide (WFP, 2013) as the third in a trilogy of agenda defining analyses produced by the World Bank, World Food Programme and Imperial College London's Partnership for Child Development (PCD) global partnership, which have shaped the way in which governments and donors alike approach school feeding.
"Helping countries to apply this knowledge [in this Sourcebook] to strengthen national school feeding programs will contribute to reducing the vulnerability of the poorest, giving all children a chance for an education and a bright future and eliminating poverty," said Kim and Cousin.
The Sourcebook is free to download at the World Bank's Open Knowledge Repository.