Global Hunger? School Feeding Offers Double Dividend of Healthier Children and Better Chances in the Classroom

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Co-authored by Lesley Drake, Director of the Partnership for Child Development


As leaves crackled and autumn closed in on Washington DC at this time last year, the Brookings Institution played host for a special event focused on global hunger. At that time, World Bank President, Robert B. Zoellick, joined Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, for a pre-Thanksgiving discussion on the fight against food insecurity that continues to wage on for millions around the globe.

Many of those hungry are the most vulnerable—particularly children.

While some prepare for a day of feast this week in the U.S., we are reminded again that an estimated 60 million children across the developing world still go to school hungry everyday—40 percent of them in Africa. For the international development community, the issue of hunger and the promise of school feeding are pivotal to health policy, education policy and social policy alike.

For a child, early intervention through school feeding can mean a better chance of success in the classroom and more opportunities throughout life.

The good news is that school feeding is taking hold, with donor-based programs becoming nationally-run programs in a number of countries across the globe, in places as diverse as India and Senegal. These seminal findings are highlighted in Rethinking School Feeding, a joint publication produced in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Partnership for Child Development (PCD).

One year later, important progress has been made in the global effort to help countries develop sustainable school feeding programs that provide social safety nets and promote education for all children. A vital step forward has been the formation of a global policy agenda for school feeding by the WFP, the World Bank, and other partners, including PCD and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). 

Earlier this year, at the Education for All - High Level Group meeting, school feeding was recognized and promoted as a key intervention contributing to achievement of educational opportunity for all children. (Video: Health, Equity and Education for All.) At the MDG Summit in New York City this fall, Canada launched its 1000 Days program to address child malnutrition in the most affected countries. School feeding contributes to promoting the development of girls entering the reproductive age and so supports maternal health and healthier babies.

Looking ahead, a new movement has been catalyzed for evidence-based approaches to school feeding in Africa—fusing school feeding programs with the promotion of local agriculture. A key part of this movement is PCD's Home Grown School Feeding initiative—supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—which is supporting African government action to deliver cost effective school feeding programmes sourced from local farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Such programmes provide regular orders and a reliable income for smallholder farmers, whilst also improving the education, health, and nutrition of local children. Improving agricultural output increases food security for the wider community, thereby reducing their risks of suffering hunger over the long term. 

In the fight to stamp out global hunger and realize education for all, well-fed children are children with healthier chances—in the classroom and beyond.


Home Grown School Feeding video:


Picture credit: Cornucopia, Wikimedia Commons.


Donald Bundy

Lead Health Specialist, Africa

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