"I want to thank all donors who have supported us on this journey, in particular the United States through the McGovern-Dole initiative," said David Beasley, speaking at a primary school in Mathare, an informal settlement on the northern edge of Nairobi. "Not only are U.S. funds feeding hungry children, but they are crucial in the transition process to full Government ownership of this critical safety-net."
In partnership with the Government of Kenya, WFP has provided hot lunches to school-going children in Kenya for more than 30 years. Since 2009, WFP has been transitioning this programme to Government ownership, with the launch of a national home-grown meals programme. In this model, the Government transfers cash to schools to buy food from the local market.
WFP supports the hand-over process by providing training, joint expert visits and exchange of staff to enhance national and local capability in programme management, procurement and storage of food, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
The McGovern-Dole programme of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports education, child development and food security in countries around the globe. With McGovern-Dole funds, WFP is providing school meals to 2.2 million children in 11 countries this year, including Kenya.
Together, WFP and the Government of Kenya provide meals every school day for more than 1.2 million children across the arid and semi-arid areas and in the poor informal settlements of Nairobi. More than 850,000 of those children benefit from the government-led programme.
In Kenya, 66 percent of USDA's total funding contributions go towards school meals. Currently, McGovern Dole is supporting WFP with a five-year grant of US$28 million, which started in 2016. The final two years of the grant focus on capacity development in the last phase of handing over the programme to the Government.
"School meals allow children to focus on their books instead of their stomachs. They're an investment in the next generation, helping ensure every child has access to education, health and nutrition," said Beasley. "We are incredibly proud of our partnership with the Government of Kenya over the last 30 years. Together we have built a sustainable national school meals programme that will be fully owned, financed and managed by the Government by 2019."
The Executive Director spoke at a primary school run by the Mathare Community Education and Development Organization, known as MCEDO, where he served lunch to some of the school's 351 students.
School meals protect vulnerable children from hunger and offer a regular source of nutrients essential for the mental and physical development of young children. They encourage parents to send their children - especially girls - to school and keep them there.
For 2017, WFP's total funding needs for school meals in Kenya are about US$13 million.
On his three-day visit to Kenya, the WFP Executive Director also addressed the Kenyan National Prayer Breakfast, and is visiting refugees in the Kakuma and Kalobeyei camps in northern Kenya.