Located in East Africa, the country of Tanzania has over 58 percent of its population living on less than $1 per day according to the “United Nations World Food Programme“ (WFP). Droughts and the impact of AIDS have contributed to poverty in Tanzania, with children being the most vulnerable. WFP runs school feeding programs as part of its strategy for helping Tanzania overcome hunger and poverty. Sheila Grudem of the World Food Programme discusses Food for Education in Tanzania during the following interview.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
In Tanzania, through the food for education (FFE) program WFP is delivering school meals to a total of 202,000 primary school children in 330 schools. All the schools are located within 13 districts in central and northern Tanzania.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance and nutrition?
We are currently conducting an impact assessment to get a detailed sense of how the program has impacted enrollment, attendance and performance since its inception in January 2000. However, previous anecdotal evidence has indicated that there has been an improvement in enrollment as well as an increase in the academic performance of students in food for education schools.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
Recently the Government of Tanzania has declared their intention to have a universal school feeding program in place by 2010. WFP has held meetings with members of parliament and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training to discuss a staged approach to handing over the current school feeding program and expanding it over a number of years to become a universal program. WFP has also discussed with the government the model of the school feeding program that will be utilized and has stressed that no one model need be followed and the program should be adjusted to the varied needs in each region.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program and what has been the effect of high food prices in this funding effort?
Any expansion of the Food for Education program would most likely draw on our current main sources of funds which consists of Government contributions, individual donation and private sector donations. This year the impact of the high food prices has not been immense but we anticipate more funds will be needed in the near future and this would require us to tap into other sources of funding to cope. Also, expansion is critical at this moment as we are in a process of handing over schools to the government while also taking on new schools. However, without an increase in our funding sources the effect of high food prices will make this task very difficult.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
Donations are the easiest and best way for people to help the program. You can donate online at either www.wfp.org (click on the fill the cup campaign), or at www.friendsofwfp.org. Apart from direct donations people could join the annual Walk the World fundraising march, the proceeds of which go towards the food for education program.
Anything else you'd like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support.
We know after many years of implementing school feeding programs that there is a clear correlation between hunger and a child's ability to concentrate and perform in school. This "silent hunger", which often goes unnoticed, is the reason the Food For Education program was initiated. It is important that we do all we can to assist governments in making school feeding a priority so that that the government can carryout the program without WFP assistance.