UNN and UNSCN put the spotlight on school feeding

The UNSCN and UNN secretariats were pleased to co-organise the Investing in schools for sustainable nutrition impact side event at the CFS46 . Improving the nutrition of school aged children is critical to achieving the SDGs, the Rights of the Child and the elimination of malnutrition in all its forms. The side event shared insights and inspiration to demonstrate the potential of home-grown school feeding programmes towards improving nutrition, education, gender equality, social protection and sustainable agriculture.

While school feeding programmes have historically been viewed as a form of social transfer programmes with limited sustained impact, a growing body of research shows that in actuality they are a unique avenue for achieving a host of development objectives. Effective school feeding programmes create an effective platform to tackle all forms of malnutrition in school aged children.

The event brought together a diverse range of experts with the discussion opened by UNSCN Chair Cornelia Richter who echoed the key messages of UNSCN’s Schools as a System to Improve Nutrition discussion paper, emphasizing the need to engage a multiplicity of actors to scale up school feeding through multi-sector action. Bibi Giyose of NEPAD supported this with a passionate keynote speech, highlighting the progress of school feeding in over 30 African countries. She also underscored the need for governments to continue to evolve in order to overcome barriers and transform from donor-supported programmes to self-funded, home grown country wide initiatives. 

Skillfully moderated by WFP’s Ms. Nutrition Director, Lauren Landis, the panel discussion included insights from Senegal which emphasized the need for decentralized governance to bring school feeding closer to communities. The SUN Government Focal Point also explained how Senegal’s nutrition coordination platform (Cellule de Lutte contre la Malnutrition commonly known as the CLM) built alliances with the education system (with UNN─REACH support) and noted that strengthening the multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) enabled a horizontal approach so that every sector that does engage can contribute to positive impacts in human capital. Highlighting the ongoing budgetary challenges faced in funding school feeding programmes, there was widespread agreement amongst the session attendees that ‘school feeding needs to be seen as an investment not an expense’.

Representatives from the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Bioversity International spoke about inspiring and innovative features of the groundbreaking programme in Brazil. Thanks to its legal foundations which mandate nationwide implementation, the programme has achieved monumental success and coverage─ now reaching over forty-five million students. The programme has also formed a strong partnership with Bioversity International to facilitate research on nutritious local crops. This research has enhanced the biodiversity and use of local products within Brazil’s school feeding prorgamme. The recent launch of E-Pnae app was presented as an innovative and effective way to continually monitor and improve the programme, engaging local universities. The app has created a platform for direct feedback and interaction between parents, students, teachers, nutritionists and the whole community. The Brazilian success story has also inspired other countries in the region, as evidenced by the dynamic presentation of Honduras’ expanding school feeding programme. 

The session demonstrated the great potential of schools as a platform to transform food systems as well as the need for a strategic, systematic approach to implementation rooted in the law to realize this potential and ensure sustainable nutrition impact.  With the growing acknowledgment that investing in school nutrition is crucial to ensure the return on investment in relation to health and development gains in the first 1000 days, school nutrition is a focus area across UN agencies’ work in nutrition.

©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

22nd International Congress of Nutrition (IUNS-ICN) 22nd IUNS-ICN POSTPONED to December 2022  The 22nd IUNS-ICN was scheduled to be held from September 14-19, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. In view of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,…

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