School food global hub

As of 2023, Yemen does not have a national school meal programme. However, there are several initiatives run by the World Food Programme in Aden and Sana'a to provide a freshly cooked meal to schoolchildren (a sandwich filled with cooked beans, eggs or cheese, a piece of fruit and a vegetable). Other foods consumed by students in Yemen include those sold in school canteens or food sold by street food vendors around the school premises. School canteen regulations developed in 2014 are not currently being applied due to operational challenges resulting from the conflict that began the same year.

School Food

School meals

Yemen has experienced many challenges in providing school meals to children in both administrative regions, Aden and Sana’a, due to the ongoing conflict and insecurity situation in the country. Between 1970–1990, the government had a school meals programme distributing canned tuna, cheese, minced meat and milk as well as food commodities (wheat, sugar, oil, legumes and salt) to families as part of educational support. However, there is currently no national school meals programme or policy; the Ministry of Education and the Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation act as the main implementers for externally supported programmes.

Since 1967, the World Food Programme has been working in Yemen supporting schoolchildren. Between 2000–2011, the UN agency and the Government led a subsidized fortified biscuit project. From 2007 to 2011, there was a school feeding project that aimed to support primary and secondary education for girls in 1,300 targeted schools in rural areas. In 2014, dry rations (in the form of food baskets) were also provided in targeted schools covering 35,000 girls, to encourage the enrolment and attendance of female students. However, this school food initiative was suspended when the conflict started in Yemen in 2014. Since 2012, the World Food Programme has provided an emergency school feeding programme, known as the Tamriya Project, which supplies fortified biscuits or date bars (100g per student per day) to schoolchildren (in January 2023, 1.8 million children were reached). These date bars have been fortified with 11 types of vitamins and 3 types of minerals, and must comply with specific health and quality standards before entering the country, from where they are distributed under the supervision of the Ministry of Education.

In 2020, the World Food Programme piloted a project in Aden through a local non-governmental organization, the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity, by which a central kitchen distributes fresh daily meals to students. The project covers 13 schools (21,000 children) in Aden, and in 2022, it expanded to the Sana’a Region, covering nine schools (7,000 children), and is implemented by the Yemen Food Bank. In both regions, the meals consist of a sandwich filled with freshly cooked beans, eggs or cheese; a piece of fruit (depending on local production e.g., tangerines, bananas, apples, etc.); and a vegetable (usually cucumber). These menus aim to provide one third of the recommended daily energy intake for school-aged children from grades 1–9, as well as taking into consideration the local food culture and children's food preferences.

To guarantee the provision of school meals to children and avoid the short-term effects of pilot initiatives, the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN)-Yemen Secretariat and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation are planning to form a ‘Nutrition in Schools’ taskforce. This will include the Ministry of Education and representatives from its governorate offices, relevant line ministries, heads of target schools, non-governmental organization partners, private sector partners, relevant UN agencies and relevant donors, to discuss promoting sustainable school food initiatives and building national capacity for school meals programmes.

Other foods consumed by schoolchildren in Yemen include those sold in school canteens (e.g., sandwiches, potato chips, biscuits, canned drinks, etc.) or food sold by street food vendors around the school premises.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education published school canteen regulations with recommendations on the food and drinks that could and could not be served or sold in and around schools. These regulations provided guidelines on food preparation, use of appropriate vegetable oils, cooking equipment, school canteen infrastructure (location, materials to use, equipment, etc.), operating procedures (hygienic conditions, storage of food, etc.) and staff responsibilities. It also included penalties for non-compliance such as fines appropriate to the level of violation committed. However, due to limited resources and operational procedures, the application of the guidelines, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of their implementation, is not currently taking place.

A summary of food guidelines within the school canteen regulations includes (not currently implemented):

Article 9. Food and drinks allowed to be served in the school canteen are determined by the following:

  • Sandwiches of all kinds, if they are not wrapped in used paper such as newspapers, magazines, books and notebooks;
  • Pasteurized milk and juices without preservatives, and it is forbidden to use juices with glass containers;
  • Tea and coffee are served in containers (paper cups of one-time use), and it is forbidden to use plastic cups;
  • Fried products such as French fries, if fried with cholesterol-free vegetable oils and are used for one time (one day), and it is strictly forbidden to use previously used oils. The cooked materials should be cooked with cholesterol-free vegetable oil and should not be left exposed to contamination. Oils should not be stored or preserved for a second day;
  • Clean, drinkable water;
  • Fresh fruit juices, with clean and washed fruits – the juicer must be cleaned and dried after usage; and 
  • Biscuits or packaged cakes.

Allowed food and drinks: plain milk, flavoured milk, iron-fortified milk, packaged dates, date biscuits, packaged cakes/pies, plain biscuits, egg sandwiches, fresh fruit, vegetables (such as cucumbers and carrots), bottled water, canned juices (the percentage of natural juice is not less than 30%), fava beans, hummus, hot drinks such as tea and milk (for high school students).

Article 10. Conditions to be met by food and drinks served in the school canteens:

  • They must be suitable for human consumption and from safe sources that meet general health conditions;
  • There should be handled in a hygienic manner and wrapped to protect them from contamination;
  • Vegetables used for cooking must be fresh and clean;
  • Constant attention to the cleanliness of tools for cooking, serving food and scooping before and after use and leaving them dry after being cleaned;
  • Food and drinks for sale must be suitable for the students’ ages and varied, as well as compatible with prices outside the school;
  • Foodstuffs should be kept in usable refrigerators or glass-doored cupboards depending on the type of foodstuffs, and compliant with storage conditions recommended by the manufacturer and written on packaging;
  • Canned goods do not contain chemical preservatives and are not near expiry dates or damaged; and 
  • Use of iodine-containing salt, that is well preserved, as well as other spices, should be stored in closed/covered containers.

Article 11: Food that is prohibited to be circulated in the school:

  • Prohibited or smuggled materials of unknown origin or that offend modesty and enact morals;
  • Cigarettes, Al-Shamma (chewing tobacco), energy drinks and soft drinks of all kinds inside the school campus;
  • Meat and its derivatives in the school canteen; and
  • Ice cream of all kinds.

Prohibited drinks and food: soft drinks, energy drinks, fruits juices in which the percentage of fruit is less than 30%, all kinds of sweets and chocolate, chips and puffs in different flavours (fingers or chips), meat and liver, food close to the expiry date, expired food, sugary roasted pumpkin/watermelon seeds, falafel.

School-Based Food and Nutrition Education

Publications

Republic of Yemen: Food Systems Pathways: Towards Sustainable Food Systems August 2022

The pathways of Yemen’s food systems are the culmination of the government’s commitment to the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. They are also the result of a combination of research and policy review, as well as national technical dialogues in Yemen, which took place during the period from November 2021 and July 2022. The dialogues were organized and their outcomes produced by Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN-Yemen) Secretariat - Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC), with the support of partners from the UN agencies (UNICEF, WHO, FAO, and WFP), and the guidance of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

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