WFP is changing its approach to school meals. In line with the 2008-20011 Strategic Plan, WFP is transitioning from a food aid to a food assistance organization. School meals are moving away from individual, isolated projects to more strategic and comprehensive approaches.
WFP is gradually moving away from direct implementation of school meals and working on enabling government ownership, developing capacity and accountability while ensuring hunger, food security and nutrition are high on national agendas.
WFP has developed a new approach to school meals based on the findings from the recent reviews and research. School meals are intended as a safety net to support government national development strategies and addressing hunger and shocks that affect children and deplete human capital.
Through the new approach to school meals, WFP will offer a range of technical support services to countries in order to foster government ownership of school meals.
Eight Quality Standards
The new approach leads to a new generation of school meals programmes, that are based on eight quality standards. These standards are aspirational, and essential to frame the design and implementation of sustainable school meals programmes:
- A strategy for sustainability: Elements of sustainability are embodied in a comprehensive roadmap, a transition strategy that will be agreed upon with government and WFP and all school meals stakeholders, by including milestones, timing, targets and benchmarks for achievements;
- National policy framework: National planning for school meals should ensure that the government has identified the most appropriate role for school meals in its development agenda, Poverty Reduction Strategies, education, nutrition or social protection sectors, or in sectors policies or plans which form the basis for basket funding or sector-wide approach that determine the allocation of donor resources;
- Stable funding and budgeting: Stable funding is a prerequisite for sustainability. As the programme becomes national, it needs a stable funding source independent of WFP. This funding may be through government core resources or through development funding. In the long term, a national budget line for school meals is needed;
- Needs based, cost-effective quality programme design: School meals programmes should be needs and design based according to a correct assessment of the situation in the country. Programme targeting is important to select the correct beneficiaries and to choose the right modalities of food delivery and a food basket with the right quality. Complementary actions such as food fortification and deworming should be a standard part of any school meals programmes;
- Strong institutional arrangements for implementation, monitoring and accountability: A government institution or ministry should be responsible for the implementation of the school feeding programme and adequate resources, staff capacity, management skills, knowledge, and technology at central and sub-national levels made available. Robust implementation arrangements are necessary to ensure quality food and resources are managed transparently through adequate monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
- Strategy for local production and sourcing: Producing from the local market whenever feasible, is key to achieving sustainability while encouraging agricultural growth. School meals programmes should include an action plan for local sourcing. Connecting small-scale farmers to markets and ensuring that a deliberate, incremental strategy is in place to tie supply to school feeding demand is important. Countries and partners should carefully balance international, national and local procurement of food to support local econommies without jeopardizing the quality and stability of the food pipeline.
- Strong partnerships and inter-sector coordination: Well-designed school meals programmes include the involvement of many sectors, such as education, health, agriculture and local government, along with: an explicit link between school meals and other school health and nutrition or social protection programmes; a coordination mechanism (task force, working groups, sector group, etc.); and strong operational partnerships.
- Community participation and ownership: School meals programmes that respond to community needs, are locally owned and that incorporate some form of parental or community contribution tend to be the strongest programmes most likely to graduate successfully from donor assistance. Programmes that include this component from the beginning and consistently maintain it have the most success.