In my recent Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed I talked about how school breakfast makes a difference for hungry and malnourished children in Kenya. This extra meal, in addition to the school lunch, is pivotal for keeping children from suffering malnutrition at a time of national crisis.
As Kenya struggles to recover from the massive East Africa drought of 2011, school feeding is playing a critical role.
Enrollment surged last year in Kenyan schools where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) was providing meals. WFP has a program feeding 630,000 schoolchildren in support of Kenya's national program. After the drought struck in 2011 parents were desperate to find a source of food for their children.
School feeding can break the cycle of undernutrition. Children of parents who have spent more time in formal education are often less stunted and live longer. (WFP/Guillaume Bonn)
WFP found itself taking on about 200,000 more children and to keep the school feeding going they sometimes resorted to reduced rations. Funding is the issue. WFP relies on voluntary donations from the international community. With enough support WFP can reach more children and help stabilize a hunger crisis.
Funds are limited for the current drought relief mission in Kenya.
Charles Njeru of WFP Kenya says, "With additional funding we could do much more, and even become more innovative. For example, the school feeding impact evaluation of 2009 recommended that we pilot a midmorning snack in a selected district but this has not been possible due to funding constraints."
WFP Kenya has benefited in recent years from funding by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program which sponsors international school feeding. But will McGovern-Dole support continue to help Kenya overcome this drought emergency?
Njeru says, "We have just received our last McGovern-Dole funding this year. We are hopeful that the program will continue supporting (WFP Kenya)...without these funds, our programme will definitely be adversely affected."
WFP says rains have improved food security in some parts of Kenya. This encouraging development, coupled with enough support for food aid programs like school feeding, gives Kenya a chance to recover from one of the worst droughts in history.