Giving Children the Best Start Through School Feeding

“When they feed us at school, I feel more awake and I want to keep learning.”

– Elena, student, PCI/Guatemala

Overview

The 2018 Global Nutrition Report reveals over 50 million children around the world under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill-health than any other cause. Addressing this key issue costs billions of dollars each year, making this a universal issue that no country in the world can afford to overlook.

Education is the cornerstone of gender and social equity, community development, and national progress. While education transforms lives and provides people with the tools required to lift themselves out of poverty, barriers like food insecurity can put school out of reach for some children. Because of this, school feeding programs are critically important and designed to provide a safety net with educational and health benefits for vulnerable children.

Research and decades of experience by aid agencies like the United Nations World Food Program show that school feeding can ease hunger, dramatically increase attendance, improve school performance, and provide parents with an incentive to send their children to school.

Improving Education and Health Through School Feeding

PCI delivers essential nutrition, education, health, and development services to children attending schools worldwide. More than 300,000 children receive a healthy meal every school day through PCI’s USDA-supported school feeding programs and this daily serving of nutritious food ensures vulnerable students have the energy they need to focus in the classroom and learn while boosting attendance rates—especially girls.

PCI is committed to serving even the hardest-to-reach schools. In Nicaragua, PCI is reaching 79,395 schoolchildren in 1,115 pre and primary schools located throughout the country’s most vulnerable regions, including the department of Jinotega and the Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region. The majority of schools in these areas are remote and some are only accessible by boat.

But, it’s not only about providing a meal. PCI partners with communities in strengthening their ability to support and sustain school feeding initiatives with local produce and resources beyond the life of the program. PCI works collaboratively with community volunteers, teachers, and parents to use schools as a platform to improve health, dietary practices, and the literacy of school-aged children.

Our key strategies include:

  • Establishing and strengthening parent-teacher associations in all participating schools
  • Improving school infrastructure, with an emphasis on increasing access to clean water and sanitation facilities
  • Training community health volunteers, teachers, parents, and students on healthy eating and personal hygiene
  • Training teachers on improved literacy teaching methods and establishing libraries, reading corners, and/or literacy camps to encourage a culture of reading
  • Providing supplementary reading materials, textbooks, and school supplies
  • Working with schools and community leaders to keep girls in school
  • Establishing mother-led Women Empowered (WE) savings and loans groups that strengthen household finances allowing children, especially girls, to stay in school during difficult times
  • Supporting government-led vaccination campaigns, health days, and the distribution of deworming treatments

In Tanzania, all 231 schools in PCI’s program are now equipped with libraries and/or reading corners where students can enjoy quiet reading time or check out books to take home to read with their parents. In Guatemala, PCI continues to work closely with the Ministry of Education to promote and support bilingual education in early grades to help break some of the barriers to education and help young children learn by using their local languages. Students from all 294 PCI-supported schools participate in afterschool literacy camps, which provide dedicated time to focus on literacy skills through a “learning by playing” methodology. And, in Nicaragua, PCI is supporting the Ministry of Education to roll out an improved literacy instruction program for first and second-grade teachers.

Supporting School Meals Through Local Agriculture

PCI recognizes sustainability is the key to creating lasting health and nutrition and emphasizes this approach in all our school feeding programs. PCI works with students, teachers, parents, and government agriculture extension officers to establish school gardens that are used as learning platforms for improved agriculture techniques, and, when harvested, provide nutritious fruits and vegetables that are incorporated into daily school meals.

In Tanzania, we’re partnering with farmers and schools to increase and enhance local food production—improving nutrition for thousands of students and enabling them to contribute staple crops for school meals.

Peter Masaju, a teacher at Suguti Primary School in Tanzania’s Musoma District, was appointed to run the school garden and created a club with 40 student members who help care for the garden while learning valuable farming lessons. Masaju and the students planted and grew vegetable seeds provided by PCI, such as tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, and highly nutritious greens along with sourced fruit trees such as banana, papaya, avocado, and passionfruit. According to Masaju, the garden produced a harvest of 2,032 pounds (922 kilograms) of fruits and vegetables between July 2017 and November 2018 alone.

Masaju’s successful school feeding story is one of many. Over the last five years, the number of school meals comprised of locally-produced food and community-contributed commodities has steadily increased along with production and, in turn, strengthened communities. Through this program, over 66,000 pounds of food have been produced in school gardens and used to complement school meals. Inspired by these efforts, parents, community members, and farmers have contributed over 200,000 pounds of food commodities, which are also used to sustainably support daily school meals.

Building Local Capacity to Sustain Programs Long-Term

Since 2001, PCI has been implementing programs that help local communities and government offices improve the educational environment for school children long-term. To do this, PCI has created and refined tools and approaches to measure and intentionally plan for sustainability. By engaging students, teachers, parents, community members, and local government officials in the process, PCI can ensure schools are able to continue providing school meals once a project ends, helping maintain positive nutrition and literacy outcomes. PCI’s ultimate goal is to graduate all the communities in which we work away from donor assistance and toward a locally-owned and sustained school feeding program.

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Our Impact

PCI’s programs in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Tanzania have reached over one million students and yielded many achievements, including strengthening the capacity of communities and local governments to sustain and support themselves.

In Bolivia, 49 municipal governments—15 percent of the country—have graduated from PCI’s program since 2005 and continue to provide daily meals to over 110,600 children with the help of community members and Parent-Teacher Food Committees who oversee the management of school feeding activities. Additionally, under Bolivia’s School Feeding Law, municipal governments have increased their budgets to support school feeding programs from $0.47 monthly per child in 2001 to $5.15 monthly per child in 2016.

In Guatemala, PCI played a major role in advocating for the Government of Guatemala’s National School Feeding Law that was approved in 2017. Under this law, the Ministry of Education committed to providing $0.40 per student, per day in 2018. In 2019, the subsidy was increased to $0.53 per student, per day, of which 50 percent is spent on locally produced foods to support school feeding.

PCI has supported Guatemala’s Ministry of Education’s dissemination of the School Feeding Law at community and municipal levels and serves on School Feeding Boards and decision-making forums at national and departmental levels. In 2019, PCI launched a USDA-funded Local and Regional Procurement program that supports the Guatemala School Feeding Law. The program developed a model and protocols to facilitate local procurement by linking family agriculture production and small farmers who are now providing fresh produce to local schools.

In Tanzania, PCI is leading and supporting the design and development of the Government of Tanzania’s first National School Feeding Guide and Manual as part of the National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan—a collaborative effort between Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

In Nicaragua, PCI supported the country’s Integrated School Nutrition Program through which the Ministry of Education is providing 100 percent of maize and beans to all schools for school feeding and plans to take over all food commodities by the end of the project. Additionally, the Ministry of Education is covering 100 percent of all food commodity transport costs and, to date, has created 85 additional food distribution points.

PCI’s strong focus on community ownership and participation has allowed all participating schools to organize a community school support group where members can develop plans, pull local resources, fundraise with local institutions and businesses, and implement projects for improving school infrastructure and school feeding. As a result, parents are contributing local products such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins to improve school meals in 51 percent schools. 

Growing Through Partnerships

PCI delivers essential nutrition, education, health, and development services to children attending schools worldwide in partnership with local governments and community members and funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition (MGD), and Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement (LRP) programs.

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