SAN DIEGO—In honor of World Food Day, Project Concern International (PCI) is pleased to announce the expansion of its McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program in Nicaragua. Thanks to a new award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the global nonprofit will be able to provide 77,500 schoolchildren with daily school meals. These students attend pre- and primary schools in some of Nicaragua’s most remote and vulnerable communities, including four municipalities in the department of Jinotega, and seven municipalities in the Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region. Many of the participating schools are only accessible by boat.

“We’ve been a proud McGovern-Dole Food for Education partner with USDA since the program began in 2001,” said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, President & CEO of PCI. “We know these programs provide so much more than school meals, though, as they improve the quality of literacy instruction, improve student attendance and attentiveness, and lead to a more educated, economically developed society.”

The five-year USDA grant will support a second phase of Project MESA, which stands for “Better Education and Health” in English. To date, Project MESA has helped establish and strengthen parent-teacher associations (PTAs) in all participating schools, and to build capacity to manage commodities and prepare nutritionally-balanced meals. Other gains include improving school infrastructure, with an emphasis on increasing access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Photo by Amy Ostrander/PCI
These are just a handful of the 77,500 students who receive daily school meals through PCI Nicaragua’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program. They attend Luz y Vida Schoolhouse in Taleno, a small, rural town on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

Phase two of Project MESA will deepen PCI’s focus on equipping schools with the resources they need to sustain positive nutrition and literacy outcomes once the project ends. Complementary activities include: literacy instruction training for teachers; distribution of books and school supplies; construction of latrines and handwashing stations; provision of deworming treatments; training parents on hygienic and nutritious food preparation; and working with PTAs to develop Sustainability Action Plans which focus on activities such as securing donations from local businesses, farming cooperatives and local municipal governments. Central to the lasting impact of the project is PCI’s strong partnership with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, which currently covers 100% of food transportation costs and 14% of the food for meals in FFE schools. Through targeted capacity building and mentoring, PCI will support the Ministry to gradually take over the complete provision of school meals for all participating schools before the last year of the project.

To date, PCI has reached over 1 million students through FFE programs in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. In all of these programs, PCI develops the capacities of local communities, government offices, and non-governmental organizations to improve the educational environment for schoolchildren and ensure the sustainability of activities and outcomes.

For more information, please contact Christina Gagliardi, PCI’s Acting Director of Food, Nutrition, & Livelihood Security, at

About PCI: Project Concern International (PCI) is a global development organization dedicated to empowering families and communities to enhance health, end hunger and overcome hardship. Founded in 1961, PCI impacted the lives of more than 10 million people last year alone through programs in 16 countries spanning Asia, Africa, and the Americas. For 27 years, PCI has implemented a diverse portfolio of community-based programs throughout Nicaragua to improve health, strengthen community resilience, and promote the social and economic empowerment of vulnerable communities. For more information, visit