Feed them or Fail them

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A school meal a day keeps the doctor, police and human rights lawyer at bay.

Children all over the world, especially in the poorer countries or conflict territories go to school without the benefit of a proper meal or a meal, period. A school meal can often represent the only nutritious meal in a child’s day. This contributes to many negative attributes in the child.

Some of the negatives are malnutrition, hunger, short attendance span, absenteeism, poor pupil behavior and a reduced ability to learn and achieve. Children who eat a nutritious meal have shown marked increase in all the aforementioned areas.

Malnourished and undernourished boys and girls are less likely to contribute effectively to their families or their communities. Nutritional content and quality is just as important as the meal. Students who eat full nutritious meals have improved cognitive functions, higher test scores and better attention spans. The brain needs sustenance and nourishment to perform optimally but in many households, this is a scarce commodity because of object poverty.

Researchers say they have identified another risk factor for childhood, obesity. While eating habits start at home, some foods in schools have contributed to obesity. Better access to good food at school means better health and improved life chances, especially for poorer pupils.

School meals are key components in improving nutrition in children and increasing learning capacities. They can help improve attendance rates and general behavior among students. But school feeding programmes must be planned and executed properly.  Otherwise what was intended as a positive initiative would be destined for failure.

Government should have a role in setting standards.

Countries that open their arms to conflict nations—example, Lebanon, which has accepted half a million Syrian children in their schools—are forced to increase their school meals program. A child is a child and should be treated equally. Regardless of nationality, race or religion.

In poorer third world countries, children are forced to work to provide food for the family. If governments provide food for children in school, thus making it appealing to be there, attendance will increase. If children are fed in school, the number begging on the streets will decrease.

Child prostitution, as well, is directly impacted in areas where a proper school meals program is effected. The desperation that might drive them to go sell their bodies for a meal is reduced as soon as a nutritious meal is provided in the school.

The nexus between education and school meals is clearly strong. The link is clearly defined in articles by the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP)  and a number of other credible NGOs. Linkages between school feeding programs, food security, social protection and economic benefits are also borne out in countries that buy directly from the local farmers. The money circulates directly in the local economy and farmers benefit from a ready market for their produce. Win-Win.

We’ve been saying since the beginning of time that children are the future. Then if we want the future to be bright let’s do what we must. If we don’t feed them, we’ve failed them.

 

This blog post covers the CFS44 side event: “Changing lives, nourishing dreams: Regional Initiative for School Meals and Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa”

Blogpost by Algernon Watts, #CFS44 Social Reporter – serpy316(at)gmail.com

Photo: Students enjoying their school lunch menu in VA USA
Photo Credit : Lance Cheung, US Department of Agriculture on Flickr

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

11/10/2017 7:51

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