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The evaluation was conducted in the context of WFP efforts to strategically position itself across the humanitarian development and peace nexus in the framework of the Agenda 2030 and the UN reform. It assessed progress towards the 2013 School Feeding Policy objectives, and how well WFP is positioned and equipped to deliver on its school feeding agenda, with particular emphasis on the organizational readiness to implement the 2020-2030 school feeding strategy.

While acknowledging progress against the school feeding policy objectives, the evaluation concluded that implementation of the policy fell short of ambitions due to funding and capacity constraints and insufficiently tailored responses. It notes however that the strategy for 2020–2030 sets out an ambitious and transformative agenda, serving as a policy update as well as an implementation plan. Opportunities for enhancing WFP's contribution are being generated by the strategy, and the partnerships that have been built around the school health and nutrition agenda, and the collaborative approaches and partnerships that have characterized the COVID-19 response. The preparation of the next WFP strategic plan is an important opportunity to reinforce school feeding as a WFP priority.

Country strategic plans and regional implementation plans are increasing the visibility of the strategic role of school feeding, and WFP has a well recognized role in this field. The strategy has helped highlight and is beginning to address some of the systemic constraints that hamper WFP efforts to promote and support national school feeding systems However, WFP will need to actively manage risks to the school feeding agenda including the risk of reduced prioritization, not being specific enough about WFP's role and added value, and the likely challenges in obtaining adequate (which may become more acute in the aftermath of COVID-19).

Key findings

Is the School Feeding Policy relevant in the framework of the Agenda 2030 and WFP Strategic Plan (2017-2021) ?
The relevance of WFP School Feeding Policy is demonstrated by global evidence on the contribution of school feeding to a range of SDGs, and by the role of school feeding as part of a school health and nutrition package delivered through schools. Moreover, data on global coverage of school feeding reinforce the idea of gradually shifting towards supporting nationally owned programmes to maximize results, an approach that is central to the new WFP school feeding strategy and was already envisaged in the 2013 policy. However, neither the policy nor the strategy provide sufficient strategic guidance on school feeding in humanitarian contexts, even though this remains a major component of WFP school feeding activities.
To what extent has WFP delivered results in line with the School Feeding Policy objectives?
School feeding effects on school attendance are confirmed, suggesting that the value transfer implied by school feeding is significant relative to household income in the contexts where WFP operates. The role of school feeding as safety net is increasingly recognized, but relatively rarely integrated into wider national systems for social protection. There is widespread evidence of positive school feeding effects on enrolment, including positive gender and equity effects. However, educational outcomes depend on context and complementary inputs. Homegrown school feeding initiatives increased during the period observed, but operationalizing a decentralised approach and ensuring sustained demand are key challanges. All school feeding rations are designed to be nutritious, although the incorporation of additional nutrition-sensitive components into school feeding programmes has been haphazard and its outcomes difficult to track. Finally, school feeding was an important part of the emergency response to COVID 19 and WFP was able to rapidly adapt and to work with partners to provide a safety net through take home ratios
How well is WFP equipped to deliver and to assist governments in implementing effective and equitable school feeding programmes?
The strategy, the regional implementation plans and the CSPs provide a coherent framework to support programming, although more clarity is needed on WFP role in different contexts and on practical implications of the proposed strategic approach. However, there are inherent staffing, budget, financing and systems constraints. Mobilizing funding for capacity strengthening remains a challenge, particularly in middle income countries. Resource mobilization approaches need to be compatible with overall ambitions on partnerships and combined with stronger support for national governments in their efforts to attract resources for national school feeding programmes. WFP has sought to improve its results-based management, however, WFP acknowledges serious shortcomings in its ability to monitor and report on school feeding performance. Noting that since 2018 WFP has given new impetus to work on global evidence generation, evaluation and advocacy in this area.
How well is WFP equipped to foster environments that enable national institutions to design, finance and implement sustainable school feeding programmes?
In line with its corporate organizational shift, WFP is paying greater attention to its role in enabling school feeding in all contexts, as reflected in CSPs. WFP is recognized as the agency of reference in the school feeding domain and is thus well positioned to advocate policy changes aimed at the adoption of an integrated school health and nutrition approach that contributes to multiple SDGs. The evaluation revealed that WFP’s progress in global partnerships, advocacy and multi-sectoral coordination is not equally reflected at regional and country levels. Evidence shows challenges in anchoring school feeding in national social protection and education frameworks and in leveraging national funding. WFP has facilitated the government-led formulation of policy and strategy frameworks that advance school feeding in various settings. WFP’s capacity-strengthening work mostly focuses on implementation activities and less on institutional reforms that contribute to enabling environments. Overall, the evaluation found that there is need for greater corporate understanding of the challenges implied when transitioning towards nationally owned programmes as well as of WFP role post-transition.