The government of Bangladesh approved the National School Meal Policy that aims at providing 30 percent of the nutritional needs of every primary school student in the country. This means 14 million children aged between 3 and 12 years across Bangladesh will receive school feeding by 2023.
The Cabinet Division in a meeting held on 19 August 2019, chaired by the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the new National School Meal Policy. WFP is highly pleased to note such development and applaud the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME) for its dedicated efforts in developing the Policy in a consultative way. WFP has been assisting MoPME and we consider this as a privilege to be part of this very important development, which began in 2012 after the visit of a high-level Bangladesh Delegation in Brazil organised by the WFP Brazil Centre of Excellence.
Bangladesh made a study visit to Brazil in 2012 to exchange information about the Brazilian solutions to school feeding. After that, they created a pilot school feeding project to test the impacts of a programme like this in the country. When the results in attendance, drop-outs and performance started to show, the government and the WFP country office decided to move forward with the elaboration of a national school feeding policy. The WFP Brazil Centre of Excellence has provided technical assistance to the country ever since.
The new policy
The government will institute a national school meal authority under the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to implement the school feeding programme. Once the policy is fully implemented by 2023, the government will provide each primary-level student across the country with one meal every school day.
To cover nutrition needs of the children, the programme is expected to provide students with cooked meals five days a week, along with protein-rich biscuits once a week. The meals will contain at least four items out of the 10 selected food groups to ensure food diversity.
School feeding now
The school feeding programme is currently in pilot mode and provides biscuits to nearly three million school children at 15,349 primary schools. Students in primary schools in three regions – Bamna of Barguna, Islampur of Jamalpur, and Lama of Bandarban – receive cooked meals.
The government and the WFP country office jointly finance the school feeding programme. Under the pilot project, students’ attendance has risen by 11 percent in schools where cooked meals are being served, and by 6 percent where biscuits are being served.
There are some 66,000 government primary schools across Bangladesh, with about 14 million students. According to the new policy, all schools will be covered by the programme by 2023.
“Nutritious meals for school children have a high return on investment, as they improve children’s health, and productivity throughout their life,” WFP Representative to Bangladesh Richard Ragan said.
“We have been providing technical assistance to Bangladesh since 2012. We have received government officials for a study visit, we have deployed a consultant to lead the elaboration of the policy, and we have worked tirelessly with WFP country office to move it forward. The approval of this policy is a testimonial of the lasting impact of cooperation for development, which is the core of our work,” said Daniel Balaban, director of the WFP Brazil Centre of Excellence.