As the largest humanitarian provider of school meals worldwide, the World Food Programme ( WFP), along with governments and partners, supports education, reduces malnutrition, and promotes development, especially during times of crises and emergencies.

Nearly all countries around the world have a school meals programme and about 368 million children from kindergarten to secondary school receive food at school every day. Governments recognise school meals as an essential tool for the development and growth of children, communities, and society as a whole.

WFP provides school meals to more than 20 million children every year. But many more children do not benefit from school meals, and in countries with the highest poverty rates where school meals would make a big difference, the reach of school meal programmes is far smaller. 

In WFP's efforts to create a world where educational and nutritional opportunities reach the hungry poor, schools are critical. It’s where we lay the foundation for future generations to grow and thrive.

What is School Meals?

School programmes include meals for students and high-energy biscuits or snacks at schools where a crisis or emergency has struck. WFP also provides take-home rations to families with children who attend school regularly.

What are the Benefits?

A meal at school acts as a magnet to get children into the classroom. Continuing to provide a daily meal to children helps to keep them in school. The benefits of school meals extend beyond the classroom:

  • Safety Nets: School meals help families to educate their children and protect their food security in times of crisis. School meals support development so children can become healthy and productive adults, breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty in the world’s most vulnerable areas. 
  • Nutrition:  In poor countries, school meals are often the only regular and nutritious meal a child receives. They are an investment in the child’s future. Without them, hunger and micronutrient deficiencies can cause irreversible damage to their growing bodies.  When school meals are combined with deworming and micronutrient fortification, especially when tailored to specific nutritional needs - such as those for adolescent girls - that investment is multiplied.
  • Education: A daily school meal provides a strong incentive to send children to school and keep them there. It allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs and helps to increase school enrollment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve cognitive abilities. Programmes can be tailored to provide take-home rations to target girls in areas where there is a gender gap.
  • Local Agriculture: As often as possible, food is bought locally, which benefits local farmers and the whole community while enhancing the sustainability of the programme. 

Visit the WFP School Meals newsroom for the latest news releases, stories, photos and publications on School Meals.