WFP and the Government of Finland begin building a coalition to support school feeding worldwide
Announced off the back of the State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020 report, Skinnari’s leadership of the coalition is the first step toward fulfilling the report’s recommendation of a coalition to support governments in the reintroduction and scale up of school meals programmes following COVID-19.
“When schools closed at the onset of the pandemic, 370 million school children were suddenly missing out on what was often their only proper meal of the day,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “As we mark one year since COVID-19 shuttered schools, it is time to step up and ensure school systems reopen safely, with school feeding programs in place, so we can avoid a lost generation.We’re looking forward to working with Finland to build a coalition of partners to support this initiative.”
“School meals are an integral part of the Finnish education system’s success story and have transformed our education and literacy levels over the past 70 years,” said Ville Skinnari, Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. “We are now facing a world in which hunger and malnutrition are reaching levels rarely seen before and children who rely on the meal they receive at school have been severely impacted. This coalition is vital so that we can build back better education and food systems that support everyone, especially children.”
At the beginning of 2020, half (388 million) of all school going children in 161 countries received school meals, making it the world’s largest social safety net. A decade of growth for school meals ended with the onset of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns which saw 370 million suddenly missing out on their school meals which was often their only meal for the day.
As schools re-open, school feeding programmes are more important than ever because they address child hunger, protect children’s nutrition, provide powerful incentives for parents to re-enroll children in school, and increase retention rates, especially among girls. School feeding programmes can have an additional effect of helping local economies recover from the impact of COVID-19 with 2,000 jobs created for every 100,000 children fed through school feeding programmes; contributing to stable markets, boosting local agriculture, and strengthening local food systems.
The school feeding coalition will involve development agencies, donors, the private sector and civil society organizations to support governments as they resume and increase school feeding initiatives. It will aim to find sustainable and innovative funding sources for school feeding programmes, strengthen evidence and guidance to improve said programmes, and bring together multiple sectors to achieve better outcomes for school children globally.
Finland is the first to lend support to the initiative. No one actor can achieve this alone, however, and WFP looks forward to more partners joining the coalition over the coming months before being launched at the Food Systems Summit at the end of the year.
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