At a side summit on school feeding during the World Forum for Children and Nutrition, Ministers of Education pledged to advocate that at least 1 percent of their state budgets be allocated to the school lunch program, and they put in place specific legislation to distribute resources between the central government and local authorities for school feeding.
In late September, the Ministers of Education in West and Central Africa held a side mini-summit on school feeding during the sixteenth session of the World Forum for Children and Nutrition in Johannesburg. The summit was supported by the World Food Programme and on the initiative of Ali Mariama Elhadji Ibrahim, the Nigerien Minister of Education. There, Ministers pledged to advocate that at least 1 percent of their state budgets be allocated to the school lunch program, and they put in place specific legislation to distribute resources between the central government and local authorities for school feeding.
At the same time, they committed to internally examine the ability of their governments to design and implement national school feeding systems, to ease the transition to a wider national program.
“This is a commendable step forward with strong commitments, in line with the improvement of school feeding programs,” said Amina Sourage, a WFP-Niger school feeding expert who participated in the Johannesburg summit.
The need for school feeding programs is particularly acute in these areas: less than 15 percent of school-age children in 19 West and Central African countries benefit from school feeding programs.
Searching for funding
Under the leadership of Niger, a ministerial conference involving stakeholders in education, food security, nutrition, and agriculture will be held in 2015, aiming to set clear goals for 2025. The conference will explore avenues for funding and seek partnerships.
“Canteens should serve as a vital element of an integrated package of activities, including interventions in health, nutrition, and child protection, and as a platform for the implementation of a community development program,” said Ms Sourage.
In Niger, the school feeding program is linked with nutritional interventions: meals provided to schoolchildren are fortified with micronutrients and vitamins. School feeding also helps local production through local purchases of beans, peas, millet or sorghum from small producers. These local purchases help to improve the income of small farmers and boost production. In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), vegetable gardens are also set up to support the school canteens.
WFP plans to assist more than 2,000 rural schools in Niger by 2016.