Tunisia’s National School Feeding Programme reaches 260,000 children. Fully funded by the Tunisian government, the programme was presented to the participants of the Global Child Nutrition Forum in Tunis as a source of inspiration for the 59 countries represented at the event.
During a field trip, participants of the Forum had the opportunity to see first-hand the different models the Tunisian government developed to implement the school feeding programme. They could also see presentations by the minister of Education, Mr. Hatem Ben Salem, and by WFP head of office, Maria Lukyanova, and then interact with them to discuss challenges and solutions of the country’s school feeding programme.
Since 2013, WFP has been collaborating with the Tunisian government to improve and increase the school feeding programme. They even engaged in a study visit to Brazil, organized by the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger in partnership with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and the Brazilian Fund for the Development of Education.
A key objective is to ensure the most vulnerable boys and girls are reached by the programme to advance education, nutrition, and social protection outcomes. With support from WFP, serving a hot and nutritious meal at mid-day has become a cornerstone of the on-going education reform.
The programme is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and is implemented in a highly decentralized manner. All food procurement and management is done at the school level, and municipalities have developed different solutions to organize the programme and ensure quality of meals.
During the field trip, participants of the Forum divided into four groups to visit some of these solutions. They saw schools that operate the school feeding programme within a centralized model, which includes a central kitchen that prepares and distributes food for schools in the municipalities. They visited schools that operate in a decentralized model, which means that each school is responsible for purchasing food items and preparing the meals. They also visited what the government calls the innovative model that includes a school food bank and blockchain.
Participation of local communities in the school feeding programme is also a feature of the Tunisian experience. In the municipality of Nadhour, for example, the central kitchen prepares 1,500 meals every day and distributes them to five schools. Cooks were hired locally and the meals are complemented with vegetables grown by a group of 100 volunteer women. Besides contributing to the nutrition of their kids, they can keep part of their production to sell it on the market or to complement meals at home.
The multidimensional approach adopted by Tunisia includes investment in strengthening the programme’s governance. It helps generate income and opportunities for rural women and fosters links with local agricultural production. The programme includes the design of nutritious meals and supports nutrition education through school gardens.
The government has strengthened its commitment to school feeding as a social safety net. In the school year 2017/2018, the investment totalled US$ 13 million. This means that since 2013, Tunisia has more the doubled the budget dedicated to school feeding.