UN World Food Programme

Global Hunger - How School Meals Fit In

The number of hungry people in the world has risen above one billion for the first time ever, undermining the progress made in the past three decades. In this interview, the head of WFP’s Washington bureau, Allan Jury, outlines what can be done to reverse this trend and explains how school feeding fits into the comprehensive strategy.

With a billion people now hungry, what do we need to do?
We need comprehensive national and international responses that address all the dimensions of hunger.  They would include effective programs for emergency food assistance; targeted safety nets and nutrition assistance that provide access to food for the most vulnerable; and longer-term agricultural development that increase food availability and small-holder farmer incomes.

How does school feeding fit in?
School feeding programs, including “take home rations” for the poorest children, help fight hunger on several fronts.  Programs can also be scaled up rapidly to provide a food “safety net”, significantly expanding access to food when economic and climatic shocks force more families into hunger. School feeding is an effective platform for providing micronutrient food supplementation and other health interventions that improve children’s ability to get the most out of food.

And in the long term?
When we introduce school feeding, enrolment of girls shoots up an average of 28 percent - that's huge! Increased girls’ education has been proven to have a dramatic long-term effect in decreasing poverty and improving nutrition for future mothers and their children. 

Is the usefulness of school feeding recognised?
The World Bank has supported WFP school feeding programs in several countries as part of its response to the global food crisis. The United States’ McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program has helped WFP assist over 6.5 million beneficiaries in 28 countries with over US$400 million in funding. The US Department of Agriculture’s policy to provide multiple years of resources for each awarded operation has allowed WFP to administer school feeding projects with a sustainable funding source. 

What can the US government do more generally to promote food security?
The Obama Administration made food security a clear priority at the recent G8 summit in Italy, which is very encouraging (Read statement on food security). The US is in a strong position to promote a comprehensive response that addresses all three aspects of global food security – access, utilization and availability.  The US is already the leader in food assistance, with effective programs for emergency assistance, school feeding and nutrition.  It can lead by example by promoting and expanding those programs and urging other countries to do the same.