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Developing capacity for strengthening food security and nutrition

School food and nutrition programmes

School food and nutrition programmes can be effective tools to reach nutritionally vulnerable populations, and have the potential to address the causes of hunger and malnutrition if designed in a comprehensive way. FAO specifically promotes the adoption of a food systems perspective on school feeding in order to achieve long-term gains in nutrition and broader rural development.

A key aspect of the Organization’s strategy is to link local farmers with school food and nutrition programmes to boost the local economy and encourage community involvement. To ensure that locally produced school food meets the necessary quality standards and is provided to schoolchildren in adequate amounts, technical guidance is given to those involved in procurement and preparation. In addition, the voluntary adoption of healthy diets among schoolchildren is facilitated by making nutrition education part of the curriculum. By establishing school gardens, for instance, children learn how to grow healthy food while simultaneously learning about sustainable food cultivation. Finally, the Organization’s strategy focuses on creating an enabling regulatory and institutional environment in order to allow for effective formulation and implementation of school food and nutrition programmes.

In order to address country-specific challenges, the “Developing Capacity for Strengthening Food Security and Nutrition in Selected Countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia” project implements three different “School Food and Nutrition Programme linked to the Agricultural Sector” pilots in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The pilots are part of the project’s effort to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition, and break the cycle of rural poverty, by building synergies between agricultural and social protection policies. By providing an evidence base on the effectiveness of an integrated approach to development, these pilots help shape key policy and programming processes in the project countries and beyond.

In Armenia, the pilot is establishing schoolyards in three schools in the Ararat region. This will build the capacity of school staff to produce fresh vegetables for school feeding, thus improving school food rations as well as their nutritional value. By selling surplus to local markets, extrabudgetary school feeding funds for improving infrastructure will be replenished. Furthermore, the schoolyards will be utilized to spread knowledge on sustainable agricultural practices and nutrition.  

In Kyrgyzstan, the project is developing a sustainable centralized model for supplying agricultural products to meet the needs of schools and other social institutions in the Kemin district. A total of 29 school will benefit from the services od the Logistics Centre, and stronger links of local food producers with the School Food and Nutrition Programme will foster local economic development. 

In Tajikistan, the project is establishing seedbeds with drip irrigation equipment in 20 schools in the Vakhsh and Dusti districts. The aim of these school gardens is to increase food supplies and meet the nutritional needs of schoolchildren and their local communities. School staff and workers are also trained in sustainable food production.

The pilots are being implemented in collaboration with the Social and Industrial Foodservice Institute (SIFI). SIFI provides technical support to the respective governments in improving the sustainability and management of their national school feeding programmes, and works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Education, Social Affairs, and Labour. In addition, the project benefits from support by the World Food Programme.