More than 370 000 pupils in 1 400 schools in all 14 regions of Namibia will benefit from the newly launched school-feeding programme.
The programme aims to improve access to quality inclusive education for all Namibian children by addressing hunger, and was launched at the Otjomuise Primary School in Windhoek on Friday.
It was established through a partnership between the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
Deputy education minister Anna Nghipondoka said in her keynote address at the event that the programme places particular emphasis on the health and nutrition of pupils through the delivery of a diversified, nutritious diet, which supports their ability to concentrate in class.
"School-feeding programmes help get children into school and help to keep them there, resulting in reduced absenteeism, and addressing the short-term hunger enhances the cognitive abilities of children," she noted.
"In the long term, school- feeding has the potential to contribute positively to strengthening the human development capacity of the nation by improving the education level of the population, thereby increasing its chances of attaining rewarding employment and significantly reducing socio-economic disparities," Nghipondoka said.
The decentralised feeding programme promotes the consumption of locally produced food from smallholder producers, while providing social protection to beneficiary households.
"The ministry and the WFP are advancing with the designing of a home-grown plan to diversify school meals from the current fortified maize. This is to ensure a relationship is created between the programme and smallholder farmers," she continued.
The deputy minister said the policy reaffirms the government's commitment to ensure good governance, efficiency, accountability and meaningful participation.
The policy falls within strategic frameworks such as Namibia's Vision 2030, the national development plans, the Harambee Prosperity Plan and the Namibian Zero Hunger Strategy.
WFP director Elvis Odeke said the feeding programme will reach over 75% of pupils in all pre-primary and primary schools in Namibia.
It is a part of the WFP's strategy to attain national and global development goals, such as helping to end poverty and hunger, facilitating inclusive quality education, contributing to the empowerment of girls, and achieving sustainable economic growth.
"Pupils who receive extra years of schooling as well as proper nutrients improve their learning capacity, and their chances of employment and of earning more over their lifetime," observed Odeke.
"Girls who stay in school longer will be healthier, and will in turn have healthier children at a later age. In this way, school- feeding programmes have benefits that last for generations," he added.
At the event, the Otjomuise Primary School also received a hydroponic garden from the WFP.
Hydroponic farming is a method of growing crops in water only with added nutrients.