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School meals support educational outcomes for economically disadvantaged communities

POSTED October 18, 2023

School meals support educational outcomes for economically disadvantaged communities

Learn the importance school meals have on children’s development and how we are working to help make a difference to ensure every child can receive a nutritious meal in school

girl giving meals to kids

We often hear about children’s rights to quality education, health and nutrition, but rarely in the same breath. Yet they are deeply interconnected. Many boys and girls simply cannot go to school due to illness, and those in school may be unable to focus for extended periods of time due to hunger. This may seem obvious in common sense, and yet school meals in economically disadvantaged communities are not always available. They depend on a number of factors, including sustainable financing, and prioritization of integrated programs connecting education with health, nutrition and sanitation interventions.

School meals and educational outcomes 

When we think about education, we tend to visualize the school and classroom, teachers, curriculum, and learning resources. School meals don’t jump to mind. But, free or subsidized school meal programs address food insecurity and undernutrition. Provided that they are nutritionally balanced, they can support a child’s development, improving school enrolment, attendance, retention, academic performance, and lower gender disparities.

Unlocking opportunities for marginalized communities

According to the World Food Program (2023), 83% of countries provide free or subsidized school meals to 418 million children each day. But, these statistics mask global inequalities. Overall 41 percent of primary school children worldwide have access to school meals, and the proportion varies by income. In high income states, 61 percent of primary school children are fed compared with only 18 percent of low-income countries.  In lower-middle income countries such as Ghana, coverage is 39 percent. Some Ghanaian caregivers are struggling to make ends meet and understandably, prioritize basic needs over educating children due to prohibitive fees for uniforms and books. Offering nutritious meals at school amounts to a cash transfer that eases the financial burden and motivates caregivers to invest in their children’s education without compromising their wellbeing. For example, a head teacher in a Ghanaian community supported by Children Believe said, “There are [pre-primary] children who are in the community that are not in school. We try to encourage parents to bring their children. But we lack a whole lot of things here.” He goes on to say that the school had a meal program in the past, “which encouraged children to come to school.” Absent the school meals, he has witnessed a drop in attendance based on family livelihoods.

This week, Oct. 18 & 19, the first School Meals Coalition Global Summit is being held in Paris France where world leaders have convened to showcase member countries’ new commitments. Together they demonstrating our work towards ensuring every child, by 2030, can receive a nutritious meal in school every day.

At Children Believe, we work through our local partners and collaborate with local governments and community leaders to provide school meals. We’ve also signed the Joint Civil Society CALL TO ACTION for equitable access to healthy & nutritious, sustainably sourced school meals to ensure every child can receive a nutritious meal in school everyday by 2030.

You Can Make a Difference

You, too, can be a part of this transformative journey. A one-time gift of $50 can provide meals for a school and contribute to the children’s educations and futures. Join us in fueling the learning of the next generation.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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