UN World Food Programme

The Power Of School Meals: 3 Lives That Prove It

WFP provides school meals to some 22 million children in over 60 different countries. Copyright: WFP/Deepesh Shrestha

Giving children food while they are in school has long been a key strategy for aid organizations like WFP, which see it as an investment in the future of a child and of a country. As experts meet at the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Brazil to discuss ways to improve this type of programme, we highlight three people who have already felt the benefits in their own lives.

ROME – Nim Doma Sherpa is well on her way to achieving her ambition of climbing the highest peak in every continent. Mamphono Khaketla has already risen to become her country’s education minister. Paul Tergat first thrilled athletics fans by smashing the world marathon record and now advocates for hungry children the world over.

Experts meet in Brazil

School meals as an investment

The world’s biggest gathering of school feeding experts – the Global Child Nutrition Forum – runs 20-24 May. This year, WFP’s Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brazil is co-hosting the event, which brings together government ministers, practitioners and policy makers from dozens of countries. The Centre’s head Daniel Balaban underlined that "school meals are not an expenditure, they're an investment".

All three of them received nutritious meals in school when they were children and all three are convinced they would not have succeeded in life without that regular food.

“School feeding is indeed an investment that pays off in the future with better educated, stronger and healthier adults and also a critical safety net to prevent the most vulnerable from suffering in times of crisis,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin in a recent comment on school meals. 

Here are the stories of three children who achieved their potential thanks to an investment in school meals many years ago

Mountaineer

It was a long route to the top of Everest for Nepalese mountaineer Nim Doma Sherpa. It started when her parents sent her to school to get the free lunches supplied by WFP. “Gradually I became interested in learning as well as food,” she said. Nim Doma got an education and in 2008 achieved her dream of climbing Everest. She now plans on climbing the tallest peaks on all seven continents. Find out more

Education minister

When she was a child, Lesotho’s education minister received WFP school meals at her local school. Now that she’s part of her country’s government, she’s doing all she can to ensure that kids in her country get the same advantage. Some 1,500 schools in Lesotho have school meals. “I’m a good example of what school meals can achieve," the minister says. Find out more

Marathon runner

Before winning two Olympic medals and smashing the marathon world record, Paul Tergat was a student in Kenya’s impoverished Rift Valley. He says the school meals he received as boy played a crucial role in unlocking his athletic talent. Tergat is now a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, advocating on behalf of hungry school children around the world. Find out more

State of School Feeding in the World

WFP’s State of School Feeding Worldwide report, coming out on Friday 24 May, provides the first ever global data on school feeding. It shows that around 368 million children, about 1 out of every 5, get a meal at school every day around the world. The report looks at why school feeding is important, in both developing countries and well-off nations, providing data, maps, analysis and insight into making school meals programmes more effective.