A daily school meal provides a strong incentive to send children to school and keep them there and allows the children to focus on their studies, rather than their stomachs. Providing school meals has many and varied benefits. The fact that almost all countries in the world—both affluent and developing—provide school meals is proof of this.
In many countries, where hunger and poverty is greatest, WFP steps in to provide meals to around 22 million children in 60 countries, often in the hardest-to-reach areas. WFP has been operating school programs for more than 50 years and is the world’s largest provider of school meals. Drawing from this experience, WFP also supports national governments in developing their own quality, sustainable school feeding programs.
WFP school meals are usually provided at breakfast or lunch, or as a snack, such as high-energy biscuits that are provided and eaten every day in school. Take-home rations, such as a sack of rice and a can of cooking oil, can act as an incentive to families whose children attend school regularly. WFP also uses fortified food and micronutrient powders to ensure that children get the nourishment they need.
School feeding supports the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on hunger, education and gender parity and offers multiple benefits:
Education: school feeding increases enrolment and attendance and can help children learn more effectively.
Nutrition: the school meal is often the only nutritious meal a child gets on a regular basis. It can fight malnutrition and a lack of essential micronutrients that can curb development.
Health: School meals provides a platform for directly addressing child health, for example, through deworming schemes. It can also be a platform for other health interventions.
Social Protection: School meals acts as safety for the household, helping families to educate their children and protect their food security in times of crisis.
Local Agricultural Production: Using locally sourced food means school feeding programs benefit not only children, but also farmers, communities and rural economies.