WFP and School Meals

The World Food Programme is the largest humanitarian organization implementing school feeding programmes worldwide and has been doing so for over 50 years. Each year, WFP provides school meals to between 20 and 25 million children across 63 countries, often in the hardest-to-reach areas. WFP works to ensure that the most vulnerable children in the poorest countries receive sufficient nutrition to allow them to concentrate in school and develop into healthy adults. WFP’s programmes in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean differ according to national needs and cultures.

WFP’s work helps progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly MDG1: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, MDG 2: achieve universal primary education, MDG 3: promote gender equality, empowering women and MDG 8: create a global partnership for development.

School feeding programmes play a key role in working to achieve the goals of the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge; having access to adequate food year round, sustainable food systems and increased smallholder productivity and income.

WFP provides cooked meals, snacks, and/or take-home rations to encourage children, especially girls, to consistently attend classes. These school meals are often the only meal a child will receive that day. School feeding programmes also catalyse development by functioning as safety nets to help vulnerable households and communities weather crises and shocks without compromising their nutrition and food security.

Linking school feeding programmes to local agriculture, known as “home-grown school feeding” helps boost local economies through the creation of reliable markets.

As well as providing food, WFP increasingly focuses on promoting country to country knowledge sharing. WFP encourages south-south learning through our Brazilian Centre of Excellence, which brings together countries to share lessons learned from the successful Brazilian experience.

WFP’s overarching goal is to transition to nationally-led school feeding programmes. Thus one of WFP’s main priorities is to build the technical capacity of countries so that they can run their own programmes. During this transition, our role will continually change throughout a process that will be tailored to each Country.

Partners are vital to success. WFP works with organizations big and small in various areas, including other UN agencies, such as UNICEF, UNESCO, FAO and the World Bank as well as over 1500 NGOs and private sector organizations. This allows WFP to capitalize on capacities that are already present and achieve greater results.

All of these elements combined work towards WFP’s school feeding policy objectives of providing safety nets for food-insecure households, supporting children’s education by enhancing learning ability and increasing access to education systems, reducing micronutrient deficiencies, strengthening national capacity for school feeding, and linking school feeding programmes to local agriculture. 

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