Teachers at the Huarimarca school in Bolivia say that the food the children receive there makes them much more alert and attentive than their peers in other schools. It also boosts enrolment rates. (Copyright: WFP/Ximena Loza)
For most children in the developed world, going back to school at the end of the summer is hardly a cause for celebration. And the thought of the meals they'll get at lunch time is unlikely to fill them with joy. But if you talk to their counterparts in many poor countries, it’s a very different story.
ROME – In the poorest regions of Afghanistan, Bolivia and Malawi – where education is a luxury for some families – there are few complaints from students who are going back to school this month. This is especially true when going to school means getting a meal or a food ration to take home for your family.
WFP provides meals for around 25 million children in school every year. These meals ensure children get the nourishment they need to grow strong and the energy they need to concentrate in class. In the long run, the promise of the daily food means children keep coming back to school. Eventually, one meal at a time, they end up with an education.
Here are three such children. Each for their own reasons is happy to be going back to school.
Gul – Afghanistan
Until recently it seemed that Gul, 13, would spend her teenage years weaving rugs to sell on the local market for a few coins. Not a great outlook if, like Gul, you want to be a doctor when you grow up. Thanks to a daily ration of biscuits and some cooking oil, her prospects have now changed. “The oil means I can come to school,” she says. Read more
Grace - Malawi
Grace, 15, says that without the free meals programme at her school, she would be married by now. That's what made the difference when her parents had to decide whether to send her to school or not. She’s not against marriage. She just wants to get an education first. And that’s what she’s doing. In fact, she is a star pupil at her school in southern Malawi. Read more
Eulalia - Bolivia
Eulalia, 10. lives in the windswept highlands of southern Bolivia and treks every day to a schoolroom made of mud. Her favourite subject is biology and, unlike many kids her age, says she’s a big fan of vegetables that she gets with her school lunch. “At home we only eat once a day and it’s not as tasty as the food we eat in school,” she says. Read more
A smart investment
For millions of poor children around the world, getting an education is the only hope for building a better future for themselves and their families. Without schooling, there is no way for them to break the cycle of hunger and poverty. Just $1 provides a meal for four children in school.
Learn more about WFP school meals programmes or make a donation