SE008 Reaching the SDGs through School Feeding - going beyond the plate: School meals go far beyond the plate of food - they are investment in human capital and equal opportunities and a way to tackle learning crisis


  • Ministry for Foreign Affaiars, Finland
  • Finnish National Agency for Education; Ministry of Education, Ethiopia
  • WFP
  • Global Affairs, Canada
  • Jamix Oy

School feeding is the world's most widely provided form of social protection. In general, school feeding can make a significant contribution towards achieving the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, especially to the second goal (SDG2) - Zero Hunger. Schools provide a unique opportunity to coherently address the different causes and consequences of malnutrition, and at the same time facilitate children's access to school, increase enrolment and attendance rates as well as improve their cognitive development. Educating girls is one of the most effective ways to improve food security: when girls are educated they are more likely to be able to meet the nutritional needs of their children and to head households that are food-secure. Moreover, school feeding goes far beyond the plate of food, producing high returns in education, gender equality, health and nutrition, social protection, and economic and agricultural development.

Finland, Canada and Ethiopia all have a significant wealth of experience to share on designing and implementing school feeding programmes. Last year Finland has celebrated the 70th anniversary of its school meals programme and as a result conducted a study on school feeding: School meals for all. School feeding: investment in effective learning - Case Finland. This study will be launched at the event. During the event, these countries, in collaboration with World Food Programme, will share best practices and lessons learnt on the efficient and effective ways of organizing school feeding. In addition, the Jamix Oy will represent the private sector and share cutting edge knowledge and latest innovations on how digital technologies can support planning of nutritious meals as well as assist in reducing labour, cost and food waste.

The sharing of experiences is important as school feeding is not yet well institutionalized in low-income countries: only 30 % of countries have a school feeding policy framework and they depend greatly on donor assistance, which accounts for 83 % of resources for school meals.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Opening remarks, Ms. Elina Kalkku, Vice-Minister, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
  • School feeding: investment in effective learning – Case Finland, Ms. Marjaana Manninen, Counselor of Education, Finnish National Agency for Education
  • School feeding to promote girls’ education – improved inclusiveness, participation and achievements, Mr. Dawit Azene Zerfu, General Education State Minister Adviser, Ethiopia
  • School feeding in emergency situations – the Canadian experience, H.E. Alexandra Bugailiskis, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to FAO, WFP and IFAD
  • Using IT to produce sustainable meals - a private sector experience, Mr. Mikko Jaatinen, CEO, Jamix Oy
  • The school feeding story and new evidence - the WFP experience, Ms. Carmen Burbano de Lara, Director, WFP

Main themes/issues discussed

School feeding is the world’s most widely provided form of social protection. It can make a significant contribution towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG2: Zero Hunger. School feeding goes far beyond a plate of food, producing high returns in education, gender equality, health and nutrition, and economic and agricultural development.

Finland, Canada and Ethiopia shared their valuable experience in implementing school feeding programmes and presented how this investment has had an impact on different sectors of communities, including the development of human capital. During the event, World Food Programme provided latest evidence on the state of school health and nutrition and school feeding worldwide. They also highlighted the challenges the international community still needs to tackle to close the gap of 73 million extremely poor children currently not receiving school feeding. Jamix, a Finnish software company, represented the private sector’s experience and introduced cutting-edge knowledge and innovation to support the planning of nutritious meals and help reduce costs and food waste.

The event showcased the importance of multiple actors and sectors coming together to jointly advocate for and drive the global school feeding agenda, to ensure that all children are able to learn and thrive in school.  

Summary of key points

School meals are a smart investment to develop human capital: Free education and the provision of free school meals have been among the key factors in strengthening economic growth and transforming Finland into a knowledge-based society.  

School feeding in emergencies offers social protection to children: Canada invests in education and school meals for children in crisis and conflict situations with the goal of making a fundamental shift towards improving access and reducing barriers, notably to girls’ education.

Home Grown School Feeding boosts local economies: Ethiopia’s school feeding programme covers 1939 schools, providing meals to more than 1.3 million children in areas suffering from chronic food insecurity.

Digital innovation can support the effective and efficient delivery of school meals:  Jamix’s explained how software is used to optimize the management of all aspects of a food service operation.

There are still multiple problems affecting the development of children: WFP concern are the estimated 73 million of the most vulnerable schoolchildren who do not receive school meals, and whose  health and nutrition status is not followed like is done with children under five.

Key take away messages

School meals are not only the world's most widely provided form of social protection but nutritious food also facilitates learning and has a positive impact on children’s cognitive development. Well-planned and implemented school meal programmes can promote healthy eating habits and assist in the fight against overweight and malnutrition alike.

School feeding can be gender-transformative. It serves as an additional incentive for school attendance, especially for adolescent girls. This in turn helps prevent child marriages and delay first births, which in turn are associated with improved intergenerational health outcomes and financial security.

Digital applications support planning of nutritious, ecological meals while assisting in reducing costs and food waste.

School feeding can make a significant contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Panelists called for action. They asked governments and partners to advocate for school health and nutrition and join in a new multi-sectoral, multi-actor response, which contributes to achieving at least eight of the SDGs related to poverty (SDG1), hunger (SDG2), health (SDG3), education (SDG4) gender equality (SDG5), economic growth (SDG8), reduced inequalities (SDG10) and strengthened partnerships (SDG17).

More information

School Meals for All-School Feeding Investment in Effective Learning – Case Finland

CFS 46 Side Event: SE008 Reaching the SDGs through School Feeding - going beyond the plate


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