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School Meals Coalition: Link-up aims to transform the lives of children

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Malawi: WFP ​​​​​works with smallholder farmers in Zomba who facilitate veggie gardens to supports schools. © WFP/Badre Bahaji

UN Food Systems Pre-Summit: How governments are working to provide millions of schoolchildren with what is often their only nutritious, healthy meal of the day

By Henry Makiwa

Hosted by the Government of Italy, the Pre-Summit will be held in Rome from Monday 26 to Wednesday 28 July, with a vast virtual programme and platform. Click here to sign up for events including: ‘Action Track 5 - Build resilience’ (with WFP deputy executive director Amir Abdulla), Tues 11:30–13:30; School meals coalition, Weds 09.00-09.50)

In early 2020, school meals programmes delivered more meals than ever before — to 388 million children (or one out of every two primary school children worldwide).

But this was brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic. When schools closed at the onset of the pandemic, 370 million children were suddenly missing out on what was often their only proper meal of the day.

Now, as the world aims to shake off COVID-19 and recover, restoring school meals programmes is an urgent priority. These programmes transform lives and serve as platforms for improving education and food systems globally.

To do something about this, governments have joined forces with development agencies, donors, academia, the private sector, UN agencies and civil society organizations to build the School Meals Coalition which aims to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a healthy, nutritious meal by 2030.

The Coalition will help to address the COVID-19 pandemic by driving actions that can urgently re-establish, improve and scale-up school meals programmes around the world.

School meals programmes do more than provide food. Evidence has shown that they are one of the most impactful and efficient interventions to support children and can play an important role in the achievement of at a number of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Nutritious school meals can transform a child’s life. They help to combat hunger, malnutrition and poverty by supporting nutrition, learning, long-term health and well-being. School meals programmes also contribute to gender equality by, for instance, encouraging girls to study and follow their dreams — and avoid being ushered into an early marriage.

The School Meals Coalition will be broad, and government-led, in view of the responsibilities governments have to the health and education of schoolchildren. The World Food Programme, with extensive experience in providing school meals to children worldwide, is supporting governments in their efforts.

Over 60 member states are engaged in the design and development of the Coalition, in addition to over 30 stakeholders from UN agencies, academia, multilateral organizations and others. Importantly, school meals are also regional Food Systems Summit priorities for the African Union and the European Union.

To achieve its goals, the School Meals Coalition will aim to:

  • Restore supporting all countries to re-establish effective school meal programmes and repair what was lost during the pandemic.
  • Reach all people who are being left behind. The most vulnerable, in low and lower middle-income countries, were not being reached even before the pandemic.
  • Improve our approach by improving the quality and efficiency of existing school meals programmes in all countries by facilitating a healthy food environment in schools and promoting safe, nutritious and sustainably produced food.

Join us as we discuss School Meals Coalition: Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child on Wednesday

Learn more about WFP and school meals