Rethinking School Feeding: Social Safety Nets, Child Development, and the Education Sector
This review was undertaken jointly by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank Group, building on the comparative advantages of both organizations. The overall objective is to provide guidance on how to develop and implement effective school feeding programs, in the context of both a productive safety net, as part of the response to the social shocks of the current global crises, as well as a fiscally sustainable investment in human capital as part of long-term global efforts to achieve Education for All and provide social protection for the poor.
The analysis was initiated in response to enhanced demand for school feeding programs from low-income countries affected by the social shocks of the current global crises, and focused first on the role of school feeding as a social safety net. This proved to be too narrow a context, and the analyses evolved to address the longer-term implications for social protection and the development of human capital as part of national policy.
This shift in emphasis came about because the available data suggest that today, perhaps for the first time in history, every country for which we have information is seeking to provide food, in some way and at some scale, to its schoolchildren. The coverage is most complete in the rich and middle-income countries-indeed, it seems that most countries that can afford to provide food for their schoolchildren do so. But where the need is greatest-in terms of hunger, poverty, and poor social indicators-the programs tend to be the smallest, though usually targeted to the most food-insecure regions. These programs are also those most reliant on external support, and nearly all are supported by WFP.
So the key issue today is not whether countries will implement school feeding programs, but how and with what objective. The near universality of school feeding provides important opportunities for WFP, the World Bank, and other development partners to assist governments in rolling out productive safety nets as part of the response to the current global crises, and also to sow the seeds for school feeding programs to grow into fiscally sustainable investments in human capital.