The importance of school feeding – Mary’s Meals at the #GCNF2015

Earlier this week, we heard from Gillian about her first few days at the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Cape Verde. In this, her second blog, we hear more about the international recognition of the importance of school feeding.

Gillian McMahon
Gillian McMahon
Director of strategic partnerships and policy

Back to all stories | Posted on 02 Oct 2015 in Blog

Today was another highly productive day at the Global Child Nutrition Forum. There were presentations from a range of countries including Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Cameroon, Indonesia, Zambia, Sri Lanka and the USA, as well as a workshop on establishing and maintaining sustainable funding for school feeding programmes.

In common across all of the countries, is the national recognition of the importance of school feeding. In some countries, generally the more developed ones, the national government has been able to allocate some of the national budget to school feeding. In the case of the USA - far more advanced in the process of government adoption of school feeding - the annual allocation is 12 billion US dollars. Many countries receive support to some extent from the World Food Programme (the United Nations frontline agency which addresses hunger and promotes food security), however there is a recognised need for more support. 

I had helpful discussions during lunch and breaks with senior World Food Programme staff based in Rome, as well as government officials from Zambia, Kenya and Malawi, where Mary’s Meals has large programmes. Unfortunately, perhaps indicative of the current challenges facing their countries, Haiti and Liberia, two of our other larger programmes are not represented here. 

The delegates from Zambia, Malawi and Kenya were highly positive about Mary’s Meals, highlighting the impact of our programmes in their countries. Hon. Vincent Winstone Ghambi, Malawi's Deputy Minister for Education said,

“Mary's Meals is really benefitting the children of Malawi and supplementing the government's efforts. With Mary’s Meals we are able to reach vulnerable children in areas where the government would not be able. The programme really motivates children to go to school.

“You see the children everywhere with their cups. They tie them to their shirts and you know that it is so important to them. They might forget something at home but never their cups! We have seen cases where children fight their parents who want their children to go to work, saying, ‘no I'm going to school so that I can eat’. This is because they know they will be fed at school and they need the food so much.

“We would love if Mary’s Meals could expand even further in Malawi, especially now when the floods and drought that we have had means providing hungry children with food is even more essential.” 

 Hon. Vincent Winstone Ghambi, Malawi's Deputy Minister for Education (right)

Leah Rotich, Education Secretary within the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, attending with her colleagues from the Kenyan government told me,

“I visited one of Mary’s Meals’ schools in Eldoret and I found that the children were very excited. The teachers and children were saying that they are fed daily by Mary’s Meals. They took us to the kitchen and showed us the food store and said that they were very happy with the programme. The children were well fed and attendance was 100%!

“The steps you have taken to collaborate with us is the best and we appreciate the strong monitoring and reporting. We would very much like Mary’s Meals to expand in Kenya because you are committed and provide food that is sufficient to the school.

“School feeding is important to Kenya because children who are well fed and taken care of are able to concentrate. It contributes to national development and one day these children will be able to give back to society.”

Funnily Ms Rotich wasn't happy with the photo I took of her and suggested we go for a selfie - which she liked! 

Gillian and Leah Rotich, Education Secretary within the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

Next we will move on to visits to schools within the Cape Verde programme, followed by more workshops and then I'll be a heading home to my own children. :)

Gillian has worked for Mary’s Meals for five years and is our Head of Programmes Policy and Development. We’ll be sharing some more of her blogs from the Global Child Nutrition Forum soon!

Since 1997, the annual Global Child Nutrition Forum has united leaders from developing countries for five days of intensive training, technical assistance and planning, all directed toward establishing country-operated sustainable school feeding programs. 

Find out more about Mary's Meals.