Published on Let's Talk Development

Four lessons from a year of the World Food Programme’s School-Based Programme Impact Evaluation Window

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Burundi. Children return to their classes after lunch. Photo: World Food Programme Burundi. Children return to their classes after lunch. Photo: World Food Programme

This blog is co-published with the World Food Programme.

In early 2021, the World Food Programme’s Impact Evaluation Unit teamed up with WFP’s School-Based Programme division and the World Bank’s Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) department to launch the School-Based Programmes Impact Evaluation Window. Its objective is to contribute to the broad-based evidence base for the efficacy of school-based programs while simultaneously supporting local evidence needs. Through creating the knowledge agenda for this window and engaging with many country teams, we learned four key lessons:

1. There are many unanswered questions

To identify evidence priorities, we conducted an extensive literature review and consulted with multiple stakeholders. The literature tells us that school feeding interventions increase children’s school enrolment, but many nuances require further analysis. For example, the optimal balance between cost, size, frequency, and meals’ composition ; the most effective bundle of complementary interventions to improve learning, health, and nutrition; effects on girl’s well-being, intra-household allocations, and whether sourcing and preparing food locally has additional benefits for communities. We identified four understudied areas through consultations:

  1. The impact of different interventions on children’s nutrition, health, education, and learning
  2. The impact on girls’ well-being, specifically
  3. The impact of different school feeding procurement systems on local economies
  4. Impacts on household consumption and food security in the presence of shocks

Four countries were selected to kick-off the window: Burundi, Guatemala, Jordan, and The Gambia.

2. Assessing the overall impact of school feeding is challenging because few programs are new or expanding to new schools

While new school feeding interventions, or existing programs expanding to new schools, provide the best conditions to assess the impacts of school feeding on the outcomes we’re interested in, few programs are expanding to new schools .

Among the four countries, only The Gambia has a program anticipated to expand to new schools.

3. Comparing different procurement modalities is critically important

Many of the school feeding programs we have engaged with since 2021 are planning to pilot new procurement modalities for their school feeding programs. For example, Jordan and Burundi are shifting from centralized procurement and delivery systems to modalities that seek to engage local communities and workers. The rationale is to develop local markets and positively impact local cooperatives, farmers, and workers. We will work with teams in these countries to assess impacts on both service delivery (for example, does local procurement allow for more diverse fresh meals that are better suited to local taste?), and the local economy.

Even in countries with a history of Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) modalities, governments are working to improve links between farmers and institutional markets to boost impacts on the local economy.

4. Start small and grow over time

Countries where such procurement modalities are new use a phased approach to assessing impacts.

  • In Guatemala and Burundi, the new modalities will start at a small scale to build implementation capacity. The pilots or lean impact evaluations will also provide time to build monitoring systems that can provide adaptive evidence to inform the programs as they mature. If pilots improve service delivery and impacts can be expected further down the Theory of Change, large-scale impact evaluations will be included in the scale-up of the programs. Another benefit of starting small is that further experimentation can be used to test strategies to overcome unexpected challenges during the pilots.

Moving forward

We are looking for opportunities to support programs focused on generating rigorous evidence to enhance their impact. Please get in touch if you are working on school-based programs and are planning a new program, expanding an existing one, or changing procurement modality. We would be happy to discuss the feasibility of inclusion into the Window.   

*Colleagues working on the School-Based Programme Impact Evaluation Window include Benedetta Lerva, Cox Bogaards, Dahyeon Jeong, Erin Kelley, Gregory Lane, Hannah Irmela Uckat, Jonas Heirman, Minh Phuong La, Paul Christian, Thiago De Gouvea Scot de Arruda, and all the colleagues from Country Offices, Regional Bureaus, and HQ’s School-Based Programmes.
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Roshni Khincha

Impact Evaluation Analyst, Development Impact Evaluation (DIME), World Bank

Florence Kondylis

Research Manager, Lead Economist, Development Impact Evaluation

Simone Lombardini

Evaluation Officer in the Impact Evaluation Unit at the World Food Programme

Jonas Heirman

Evaluation Officer and Acting Head of WFP’s Impact Evaluation Unit

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