In sports we often hear of great duos, like Joe Montana hitting Jerry Rice for touchdowns time and time again for the San Francisco 49ers. In baseball, it’s Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine pitching the Atlanta Braves to over 350 victories, three of those coming in the 1995 World Series win.
But great duos transcend far beyond sports. They also exist in the realm of development and stability for impoverished nations. For example, one of the most important duos is school feeding combined with locally-produced food. This is a duo that can lead a country toward a path of self-sufficiency and stability, and ultimately end hunger within its borders.
First, school feeding is something every nation must have for all its children. Tragically, most countries do not. This is clearly an area the international community has to address immediately before it loses another generation of children.
By receiving a meal at school, children gain nourishment. This, in turn, improves their physical and mental health at a time when malnutrition could cause lasting damage. School lunches are often the only meal a child receives all day. Also, disease can be more easily prevented by providing healthy, fortified food.
The very fact that children receive the meal at school improves their performance and attendance rate. In impoverished countries, parents may not send their kids to school unless they are assured of this food. Take-home rations also serve as a major incentive for class attendance.
A humble school meal packs a lot of punch in terms of its domino effect: It can change the lives of children and their nations.
Now let’s bring in the 2nd part of this development duo, locally- produced food. An ideal situation for a country with school feeding is to have this food come from local sources. This does a lot in terms of boosting the incomes of local farmers and their communities. It makes more sense than having the food shipped in from greater distances at higher costs. The key is to empower the local farmers so they can produce enough food.
As a UN World Food Programme (WFP) report explains, "Small-scale farmers are poor because of inadequate access to assets such as land, water and human capital. In addition, their production practices are characterized by limited use of productivity-enhancing technologies and practices – such as hybrid seeds and fertilizers." In other words, these farmers need a strong initial investment so they can start taking on the responsibility of supplying food on a larger scale.
Purchase for Progress in action in Afghanistan, helping farmers (WFP/Patrick Andrade)
They also need the assurance of a market, which a school feeding program can provide. The World Food Programme has a program called Purchase for Progress which aims to make local purchase of foods a reality. As Zahir Islam of WFP Bangladesh explains in my book Ending World Hunger, " The food is purchased from local, small-scale farmers for use in feeding programme and in support of families and local economies."
You hear repeatedly that ending world hunger is something that can be achieved. But not if the world doesn’t invest in programs like Purchase for Progress, empowering small farmers and school feeding.
Would a winning team ever bench its star duo? No, and we cannot do so with school feeding and local purchase of food in developing countries. These initiatives must be strengthened if we hope to one day end world hunger.
View a WFP video about Purchase for Progress and helping small farmers in developing countries produce more food.