UN World Food Programme

School Meals Offer the Opportunity of a Lifetime

WFP school meals are usually served at breakfast, lunch or as a snack. Some students also receive take-home rations. Copyright: WFP/ Rein Skullerud

In many parts of the world, a meal is no guarantee day to day—and neither is the opportunity for education. However, WFP school meals are both feeding students in the classrooms who may not otherwise have food and inspiring parents to send their children to school.

One child went on to set a marathon world record. One went on to climb Mount Everest. One went on to serve her country’s government. As children,these extraordinary people, and many others, received school meals from WFP, and each meal was one they probably would not have received otherwise.

In 2012, WFP provided school meals to 24.7 million children in 60 countries, many of whom were in hard-to-reach areas where hunger and poverty are pervasive. In fact, WFP is the world’s largest provider of school meals.

For those in the developing world with children like the ones above, a school meal can be a strong incentive to continually send their children to school. In some poor regions, parents must decide between sending their children to school or to work. With WFP’s school feeding programme, parents can rest easy knowing their children will receive food at school. In some cases, take-home rations like rice or cooking oil are given to families who send their kids to school regularly.

Why is this programme so important for WFP? From the assurance that a child gets a meal to increased enrollment in schools, the benefits are countless. Studies show that it is harder for children to learn when they don’t have proper nutrition.

Take Peter in Kenya. He spent many years studying on an empty stomach. But when WFP began distributing school meals in his region, everything changed. He received two meals at school plus biscuits to take home each day. Peter excelled, and he went on to earn his degree in Chemical and Process Engineering.

Or take Hadiatou in Burkina Faso. She received school meals and take-home rations at school. She was one of nine girls who received the highest grades on their primary school leaving exams. She hopes to become a nurse when she grows up.

 If you’re looking to donate to WFP but don’t have the funds to do so, think about this: feeding a student a school meal costs just 25 US cents a day. The amount you spend buying a coffee at your favourite café could potentially feed an entire class.

There are 66 million primary-school aged children in the developing world who go to school hungry each day. WFP estimates that about US$3.2 billion is needed each year to feed all of these children. Every dollar helps.

Think back to your early school days. How different would your days have been if you did not have a meal during the day to break it up? Learn more about our school meals programme here.

(Photos in text: Above left—Photo courtesy of Peter Mumo. Above right—Copyright: WFP/ Isabel Pike)