FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO appeals for collaborative action to ensure nutrition sensitive and community driven school food and nutrition in Eastern Africa

African Governments have recognized school feeding as an important strategy for enhanced retention and performance of children in schools ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

27 December 2019, Addis Ababa - Aiming to contribute towards improving capacities and policy environment for school food & nutrition initiatives in Eastern Africa, the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) convened workshop on School Meals from 18-19 December 2019 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. 

The workshop intended to discuss and validate the subregional report on nutrition profiling and related school meal guidelines, appraise the achievements of the joint FAO-AU technical cooperation project on school food and nutrition and agree on follow-up actions. The workshop also hoped to build consensus on potential areas of FAO technical support in school food and nutrition in Eastern Africa and to the African Union.

Officially opening the workshop, Hon. Yasabu Berkneh, Director General for School Improvement Program and Support, Ministry of Education of the Democratic Federal Republic of Ethiopia, stated that his ministry is working with FAO, World Food Program (WFP), and partners on school feeding programmes as one part of the human development and social protection aspect in eliminating hunger from schools. Hon. Berkneh expounded on the advantage of school feeding and homegrown feeding programs. “They improve education outcomes for the poorest students enrolling in schools and minimize dropouts, help achieve gender equality as girls are more exposed to hunger and malnutrition, improve health and nutrition, support social protection, and boost economy and agriculture”, he said.

In his remarks made at the event, Chimimba David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the AUC and UNECA, prompted that despite achievements from collaborative efforts of FAO, the African Union (AUC), and partners, a lot still needs to be done to attain CAADP Malabo targets of food and nutrition security. “It is estimated that more than 23 million African children are still attending primary school hungry. Hunger harms children’s chances of learning and limits their job prospects in adulthood,” he said recognizing the gravity of the problems for school-going children. He further reminded the role of school food and nutrition to support food systems that provide people with healthy safe, affordable, and sustainable diets contributing to the double duty approach of addressing both stunting and obesity in Eastern Africa.

Similarly, Angelline Rudakubana, Director of the WFP Liaison Office to the African Union and UNECA highlighted the role of mutually reinforcing and interconnected interventions that prioritize engagement of schoolchildren, smallholder farmers, and young people to scale up school food and nutrition endeavors, which are paramount to school retention and increased productivity in Africa. 

The workshop served as a platform to present, discuss and validate school meal guidelines. Participants also appraised the achievements of the AUC-FAO joint project ‘Creating an enabling environment and capacity for School Food and Nutrition in Eastern Africa’ and agreed on follow-up actions. Through experience sharing amongst countries, the meeting collected inputs that will feed into national country reports and guidelines in support of efficient school food and nutrition interventions in Eastern Africa. As a follow-up to the workshop, FAO will work with the AUC to scale up the experience of the three countries in other regions, while beneficiary countries will be implementing the guidelines developed.   

African Governments, through the Malabo Declaration and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), have recognized school feeding as an important strategy for enhanced retention and performance of children in schools. Global processes and mechanisms such as the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Agenda, Zero Hunger Challenge, Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, and Nutrition for Growth recognize the contribution of school meals to improve nutrition. The revised Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy (ARNS) 2016 – 2025 and the CAADP Malabo also recognized that school meal is a major programme that can have a huge impact on nutrition outcomes. 

Creating an enabling environment and capacity for School Food and Nutrition in Eastern Africa 

FAO and African union collaborated to develop the project: Creating an enabling environment and capacity for School Food and Nutrition in Eastern Africa to create an enabling environment and strengthen country capacity to design and implement local farmer-friendly and sustainable school food and nutrition programmes in selected Eastern Africa countries namely Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda in 2017. The initiative focused on promoting procurement approaches that support the participation of local actors into school food and nutrition programmes while improving nutrition sensitivity of school meals, and thus nutrition status of school-going children.

The joint project has been completed successfully with tangible results including completion of nutrition profiling of school meals in selected schools of the three countries, development of school meals guidelines in Ethiopia and Rwanda and, a review of policy and legislative frameworks that inform on existing public procurement mechanisms in beneficiary countries. In addition, the project contributed to a high-level policy dialogue targeting Eastern Africa Parliamentarians for increased investments in food systems and school food and nutrition. It has also been catalytic for the creation, and support of the operationalization of the Eastern African Parliamentarian Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (EAPA FSN). The overall outcomes contribute to the sustainable school food and nutrition programme for Africa endorsed by the African Union, Member States, and development partners. The outcomes also support awareness-raising efforts on the importance of two aspects of school meals: locally sourced foods for school meals and nutrition quality of the meals provided to pupils in all three countries as well as at continental level.

 

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