One of the featured interviews in my book Ending World Hunger was with Rene McGuffin of the World Food Programme (WFP). She discussed a key counter-attack used by WFP against hunger, drought, and poverty: school feeding.
When these emergencies strike in Kenya, families can start to descend further into poverty. One thing leads to another. The parents may pull their kids out of school to work. Hopes for an education and development can suffer a huge blow.
However, when there is a feeding program at the school, it offers an incentive for having their children attend class. It gives them something to count on in a period of dangerous uncertainty. For children living in some of the most impoverished areas in the world, school feeding is an oasis.
McGuffin said, “School meals help get children in the Nairobi and Mombasa slums off of the dangerous streets and into classrooms, ensuring them at least one hot, nutritious meal each day.”
Here are the very latest figures on school feeding in Kenya. WFP is providing meals to 720,500 school children in its regular development plan for Kenya. A grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program has helped make this possible.
The government of Kenya is feeding another 540,000 kids through the Home Grown School Meals program. The idea is to produce the food locally, which helps the school children and local farmers. It’s all part of the plan for building a self-sustaining national school lunch program.
WFP hopes to transfer 50,000 children a year into the government’s program. There are an additional 320,000 children receiving school feeding as part of a drought emergency response.
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran visits Stara School in Kenya.
Funding though is a significant hurdle for sustaining the program. Charles Njeru of WFP Kenya says that in the next 12 months WFP will need 14 million dollars to continue to provide school feeding for the 720,500 children currently taking part.
He added that the “funding for the 320,000 children under the drought response feeding is uncertain as we do not have resources for this component.” International cooperation is needed to prevent a further slide into malnutrition and poverty for these children.
The new U.S. Feed the Future initiative has made Kenya a top priority, and school feeding is an integral part of the plan. A recent Feed the Future report says, “With the right kind of investments and interventions, and a committed national government, Kenya has the potential to become food secure, contribute to regional agricultural and economic development, and achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce poverty and improve nutrition.”