School food global hub

FAO-WFP online event explores the importance of procurement to implement school food nutrition guidelines and standards


On 27th September, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with the School Meals Coalition, jointly held an online event titled “Sustainable procurement for nutritious school food. The importance of procurement to implement school food nutrition guidelines and standards”, attended by more than 300 participants.

FAO and WFP are collaborating on a project aimed at designing a methodology for countries to define nutrition guidelines and standards (NGS) for school food, so that school foods and meals are in line with children and adolescents’ needs and can therefore contribute towards safeguarding their right to food. Food procurement plays a key role in their implementation, as it is through procurement that these NGS are translated into actual food items and bulk quantities, the suppliers are selected, and the delivery of food is ensured. However, as the NGS development process is usually led by health and education authorities, procurement is seldom taken into account.

"Not considering procurement when developing nutrition guidelines and standards can make their implementation unfeasible at the local level due to governing procurement modalities and regulations, supply limitations and so on. This happens with other key areas too, so the methodology we are developing includes these areas right from the start to avoid issues with implementation or lack of effectiveness at a later stage" states Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division.

Sustainable school food procurement can also contribute towards broader development objectives. In particular, it can stimulate an increased production of diversified and nutritious local foods, and support vulnerable producers’ groups such as smallholder farmers, small and medium food enterprises, and rural women. Moreover, it can also contribute towards environmental outcomes such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity conservation, and the transition towards more environmentally-friendly production practices.

Considering the extent of school food demand, procurement provides an important entry point to shape food systems and move supply chains in a more nutrition-sensitive, inclusive and sustainable direction. For this to occur, sound policy and regulatory frameworks must be in place.

"Locally-sourced school meals reveal multiple wins with important benefits on school achievement, employment and national economic growth. The evidence is wide: for example, in many Sub-Saharan countries local procurement resulted in the inclusion of more diverse and fresher food in school meals. In the particular case of Ghana, preliminary findings from an impact evaluation, in which home-grown school feeding was implemented, resulted in a 33 percent increase in agricultural sales and a strong increase in household income", explains Edward Lloyd-Evans, Head of the Research, Evidence, and Policy for the School-Based Programme Division of WFP.

During the webinar, technical experts from FAO and WFP outlined the key role of procurement in the achievement of nutritious school food, as well as the importance of aligning school food procurement objectives to national public procurement systems. A panel discussion followed, in which speakers from Kenya, Ecuador and Denmark discussed upon and shared their experience with supporting the implementation of nutrition guidelines and standards through procurement.

This event is the third episode of a series of four webinars focusing on the key areas that will complement the methodology for designing nutrition guidelines and standards. The next webinar will take place in November and will focus on the ways to integrate school-based food and nutrition education into the school curricula.