School feeding programmes have been consistently proving to advance education, health and nutrition outcomes of school going children. Moreover, if well designed with the addition of home-grown food supply component, these programmes have the potential to benefit entire communities through stimulating local markets, facilitating agricultural transformation and enabling households to invest in productive assets. Acknowledging these impacts, and driven by a desire to make progress towards the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many African countries have successfully implemented school feeding programmes at national and sub-national levels. Some of them have already developed into home-grown school feeding programmes. Observing this rapid expansion of school feeding programmes on the continent, the AU, guided by its Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology intensified its support to member states in the design and implementation of national, innovative and home-grown school feeding (HGSF) programmes.
As part of concrete efforts to augment school feeding’s position on the African continent, the Heads of State and Government of the AU, in a landmark decision during the AU Assembly in 2016, established the 1st of March as the official African Day of School Feeding. Moreover, this Assembly called for the establishment of a multi-sectoral technical committee to support and promote sustainable school feeding. As an important first step, the Assembly requested the African Union Commission (AUC) to research school feeding’s impacts on inclusive, quality education in AU countries, and how school feeding can facilitate progress across a range of sectors, including education, nutrition, health, and agriculture and local development. This research, alongside analysing the returns from school feeding across the these sectors, generated entry point recommendations for AU member states in optimising and enhancing their own national school feeding programmes. To carry out that Assembly’s decision, the AUC and the World Food Programme Centre of Excellence against Hunger in Brazil (hereafter the “WFP Centre of Excellence”) commissioned the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), a global institute based in Cape Town, South Africa, to conduct the study.
Purpose and outline of study
Overall, this study synthesises the outcomes of and multi-sectoral returns from school feeding in AU member states. It relies on both secondary sources, as part of a structured desk review, and primary data, as qualitative research to construct a high-level landscaping of the state of school feeding in the AU. The study then takes the evidence and best practices revealed by the desk review and primary research to develop a conceptual framework for sustainable school feeding that operates from a systems approach, and to generate entry point recommendations. These operational outputs present broad indicators progressing towards more nationally owned, integrated and sustainable school feeding programmes. Complementary to this study document, a report with case studies on 20 selected AU member states allows for further elaboration and reflection on the diversity of and innovations within school feeding programmes across the continent. To ensure equitable representation of school feeding programmes, the focus countries for case studies were selected in accordance with the AU’s five geographic regions and in proportion to linguistic representation of the AU’s official languages.