The government has released Sh16 billion to primary and secondary schools as capitation for this term, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has said.
Of the amount, Sh12.5 billion has been sent to secondary schools to support free day secondary education while Sh3.5 billion has been disbursed to primary schools. Ms Mohamed asked schools to use the funds prudently.
The Cabinet secretary, who was speaking during the launch of national school meals and nutrition strategy at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, also asked schools not to overburden parents with extra charges.
She said the ministry was aware of the charges schools were demanding from parents for provision of lunch to students and vowed to ensure the programme is streamlined.
At the same time, Ms Mohamed said the World Food Programme is supporting 500,000 children in the arid counties of Mandela, Wajir, Garissa and Turkana as well as Nairobi slums using "a mix of cash and in-kind food assistance".
"As part of the sustainability strategy, the government is planning to take over the whole feeding programme from WFP by the end of June. However, it is expected that WFP will continue to offer technical and material support when need arises," she said.
She said the government requires Sh3.45 billion to support all the children under the programme.
"However, since the ministry's allocation for the next financial year is expected to stand at Sh2.45 billion, I will initiate consultations with the National Treasury with a view to seeking additional funds to bridge the shortfall.
"This will enable us to fully meet the needs of the two million children who will be put under the programme when the government fully takes over the programme starting from July 1, 2018," said the CS.
She said global reports on health and nutrition interventions in schools reveal major "benefits for school achievement, employment and economic growth".
"Students who received school meals scored higher in the KCPE exam by about seven per cent points than those without. Additionally, girls who received school meals finished primary school at a higher rate than those who did not, and boys who received school meals entered secondary school at a 10 per cent higher rate than those without," she said.
At the same time, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said the ministry had acquired Sh10 billion equipment to support farming in schools and other areas.
Mr Kiunjuri said schools would be provided with drip irrigation equipment and water pans to support food production in the institutions under the programme.
Health CS Sicily Kariuki said the school feeding programme would ensure that pupils are healthy.
She said one out of four children under the age of five in the country are stunted due to poor nutrition.
WFP country director Annalisa Conte said the organisation would hand over provision of meals to counties by June. "We have been working on arrangements for this with the Director of Basic Education and the school meals team to ensure a smooth transition. We would like to mark the event with a ceremony mid-year," said Ms Conte.
She added that the hand-over of the programme did not mean that WFP "is vacating the school feeding arena".
"WFP will remain a key partner to assist the ministry to achieve its Vision 2030 at both national level and county levels, both as a partner that can support the government lead on service delivery and as a provider of technical guidance to realise the objectives outlined in the new strategy," she said.