WFP, IPNEd and the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition unite to ensure every child receives a healthy meal in school, every day
The three partners will work together to increase the understanding and commitment of members of parliament to school feeding. A key activity will be the development of an evidence-based toolkit for MPs on school feeding, with information on what they can do to promote, legislate for, finance, and monitor school meals programmes.
The commitment comes in response to a food crisis of unprecedented proportions. Since 2019 the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity has soared from 135 million to 345 million. Nearly half of the people affected, around 153 million, are children.
“School-age children are bearing the brunt of concurrent crises and going hungry in the process, with far reaching consequences for them, their communities, and countries,” said Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, the Executive Director of the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd).
“We know that school meals programmes are a proven and scalable way of tackling hunger and malnutrition in children and we want to play our part in expanding the reach of this crucial safety net.”
When education systems collapsed in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 370 million children lost access to school feeding. For many, this meant losing the only consistent meal they were receiving each day. Schools had hardly started to re-open when the world entered a new crisis of food availability and affordability, in part driven by the war in Ukraine.
IPNEd and WFP are both members of the School Meals Coalition, which brings together governments and partners from international organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector, to drive actions to improve and scale up school feeding.
“We need to turn our shared vision into action for children’s health and development, which is why I’m so excited by the opportunity to work with members of parliament to advocate, legislate, fund and monitor school meals programmes,” said Ms Carmen Burbano, the Director of the School-Based Programmes Division at the World Food Programme.
“The Coalition’s aim is for every child to have the opportunity to receive a healthy, nutritious meal in school by 2030. That’s an ambitious goal that requires sustained political will, which this initiative will help to create,” she added.
The new toolkit for MPs will be underpinned by independent evidence generated by the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition: a global consortium of experts in school meals and school health hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The toolkit will be shared with MPs at national, global and regional parliamentary events throughout 2023.
“The School Meals Coalition’s vision is a world in which every child has the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive, which is a vision shared by IPNEd and our member parliamentarians all around the world,” said Member of the Tanzanian Parliament and IPNEd Regional Representative for Africa Neema Lugangira MP.
With over 90% of school feeding programmes worldwide funded and managed by national governments, parliaments have a central role to play in growing the reach and improving the quality of school meals. The toolkit is designed to help parliamentarians play an active role in supporting the aims of the School Meals Coalition, which so far 74 countries have committed to, as advocates, legislators, funders, and monitors of governments.
The initiative will build on the significant interest amongst IPNEd member MPs in the intersection between education and nutrition, strengthening the expertise of pre-existing champions whilst growing and inspiring further parliamentary leadership.