United Nations officials in West Africa have been calling on governments to invest in school meals. Emphasising all the benefits of school meals, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Abdou Dieng, called school meals a “win-win opportunity” for governments.
The issue was highlighted on 1st March – African Day of School Feeding.
The benefits of school meals are wide ranging and have a big impact. At the Gardiner Foundation we like solutions that can have a positive knock-on effect and school meals definitely qualify.
Children who eat a healthy school meal learn better. They are more likely to stay in school and getting a meal at school can be a deciding factor in parents allowing children to attend school and stay on. So their education and their health benefits.
With a better education and better health they can achieve more and have improved prospects for themselves, their family and their community.
It’s not just the children receiving the meal that feel the benefit. The UN notes that the food for the meals is coming more and more from local areas. The increase in school meals leads to an increase in local agriculture jobs, providing an immediate boost to the local economy and improvement in people’s lives.
There is a great example in Burkina Faso where local women collect milk and have started a yoghurt processing plant. Then they deliver their yoghurt to local schools for their lunches. It’s a fantastic example of entrepreneurship that benefits not only the workers but the local community as well.
However, WFPs school meals programme is facing a shortfall of $60 million dollars this year, which means some of the 2.7 million children they are aiming to provide food for could go hungry and be at increased risk of dropping out of school.