Schools as a System to Improve Nutrition

The UNSCN discussion paper Schools as a System to Improve Nutrition, released in October 2017, was another excellent example of interagency collaboration, drawing from the expert capacities of the technical staff of eight UNSCN members (FAO, IAEA, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and Bioversity International/IFPRI). The drafting team also received input from outside the UN family, including from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Child Nutrition Foundation, Partnership for Child Development (PDC), World Bank and Catholic Relief Services. Most noteworthy is how the process of developing the paper resulted in moving the issue from policy to practice.

The process of developing the paper drew attention to countries that are actively encouraging underutilized, nutrient rich crops and species into school food procurement and school meals. Although not one of the original agencies were involved in the initial drafting of the paper, a fortuitous exchange of emails between FAO, the UNSCN secretariat and Bioversity International resulted in an invitation to the latter agency to contribute to the process. Bioversity’s Danny Hunter said that “the UNSCN members and others involved in the process were very welcoming and open to contributions and this provided a much welcome opportunity to present some of our work on diversifying school meals in Kenya and Brazil with the eventual inclusion of two case studies in the final discussion paper. This was important because those two examples are probably little known to organizations and individuals involved in mainstream school meals programmes on a daily basis”. Involvement in the process also drew attention to local procurement of school meals. If linked to local producers, school feeding can, in addition to improving nutrition and livelihoods, also encourage diversification of supply chains and agricultural landscapes, resilience and adaptation to climate change, and biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability.

Another beneficial outcome was the opportunity for Bioversity International to reach out to, and engage, PCD in a recent planning workshop based on pilot work in schools in Busia County, western Kenya, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Danny Hunter pointed out that “this collaboration will hopefully lead to PCD’s involvement as a key partner in a forthcoming large-scale study for pioneering the greater incorporation of underutilized, nutrient rich crops and varieties into school food procurement and school feeding in a number of schools and farming communities in several counties and districts in Kenya and Tanzania, possibly others. Being able to make such a link was a tangible outcome of being involved in the process of developing the paper.”

Since its release, this discussion paper has also been featured at the School, Food and Nutrition: Lessons learned and new perspectives for the Brazil – FAO – Africa South-South Cooperation held in Johannesburg in mid-November,  at the event International Symposium Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition at the end of November 2017 in Brazil and at the International Conference on School Gardens in April 2018 in the Philippines. Download your copy here.

Photo by ©WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020 31 March - 2 April 2020 Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre Queensland Australia WORLD PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITION CONGRESS 2020Knowledge, Policy, Action in the Decade of Nutrition…

Sign up for UNSCN e-alerts and e-newsletters

Sign up