In a 2009 interview, Ismail Omer of the UN World Food Programme talked about school feeding to fight child hunger in Ghana. WFP’s plan was to reach 100,000 children with school meals that year. This was part of a strategy to support the government’s national school feeding plan.
Today, WFP is reaching 122,000 children in 304 schools. How important are these meals for children? The food provides an incentive for children to attend school, but more importantly, the meals are vital for improving children’s health.
In his interview, Omer told a story of how some children would collapse out of weakness during morning school assembly. When the WFP feeding program started, such incidents thankfully came to an end. The direction of school feeding in Ghana offers a blueprint for President Obama’s Food Security Initiative.
WFP is buying locally grown rice for these Ghanaian children's school meals in an effort to help farmers in some of the poorest parts of the country. (World Food Programme photo)
For example, the meals address an urgent crisis of child health in impoverished areas of Ghana. The WFP meals target the areas most in need. Since the meals boost classroom attendance and performance, they help provide the education that is the key to unlocking a child’s future and that of their country.
The WFP school feeding also helps farmers in Ghana since they are the supplier of rice, which is the primary food for the program. Boosting the business of local farmers can help lift entire communities out of poverty. President Obama’s Food Security Initiative emphasizes agricultural output in developing countries.
A WFP document from the Ghana office explains that “Three out of the four organizations which won the bids to supply rice work with farmers in the Upper East and Northern Regions. Now both farmers and school children in Ghana’s most food-insecure and poorest regions are benefiting from WFP’s assistance to the school meals programme.” WFP had previously used a corn-soy blend for the meals, but high food prices helped lead to a switch to the rice.
The WFP program in Ghana is a partnership with the government to develop nationwide school feeding. Local purchase of the food is providing the extra benefits to the community. It is this scenario that will need to be replicated in many more countries so that the ultimate goal of every child receiving a school meal is met.