The World Food Programme (WFP) Centre of Excellence against Hunger Brazil and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) promoted two virtual meetings on December 1st and 6th, 2022. The online sessions aimed at raising awareness of the implementation of Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programmes and to advocate on their strategic importance in supporting other development agendas towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The event enabled countries to identify best practices in the area and promote South-South and Triangular Cooperation, by leveraging the wealth of experiences and expertise in the Global South and the work supported by WFP and FAO. The events also provided an entry point for further technical support demands to the WFP Centre of Excellence Brazil and FAO. The training workshops were attended by participants from Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Guyana, Benin and Brazil.
During the opening of the first event, Daniel Balaban, Director of the WFP Centre of Excellence, presented the event as an occasion to put a spotlight on the countries’ experience with school feeding. “Our work at WFP and as a UN agency is to provide high-quality, technical and advocacy support to countries, and spaces like this where they can meet and exchange best practices”, he said.
Andrea Galante, Senior Nutrition Advisor at FAO, highlighted the benefits of connecting smallholder suppliers to school feeding programmes as it offers an unparalleled entry point for addressing hunger and malnutrition. Furthermore, the benefits of HGSF can go far beyond students. “When the demand for school foods includes smallholder producers, these programmes can offer an opportunity to support them, the local economy and transform food systems for healthy diets,” she said.
The first virtual workshop shared evidence, best practices and training materials to help countries to take advantage of the connection of smallholder farming and school meals in order to accelerate multiple facets of social and economic development. During the first meeting, participants discussed the nutrition-sensitive value chain approach and shared experiences in Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Mozambique.
Bin Liu, Nutrition and Food Systems Officer at FAO, presented the benefits of conducting nutrition-sensitive value chain analyses for HGSF. In addition, he outlined the main steps and strategies to increase the supply and demand of nutritious foods to Home-Grown School feeding programmes. He explained how they can contribute to sustainably strengthen food systems thanks to the stable demand they create, as well as the need to provide support to smallholder farmers and organizations to produce more, better food applying safety and quality standards.
School feeding expert Kannitha Kong from WFP Cambodia explained that the school meals began to be distributed in 1999, during the implementation of a pilot project with 64 schools in Takeo province which, today, represents a model for other countries in the region and the world in this area. In 2014, the school feeding model with local procurement was incorporated into the country’s policies, bringing more diversity to the food provided and positively impacting local farmers. Currently, the WFP school feeding programme in the country covers 74% of participating schools, serving 216,000 students and counts on the participation of 1125 small farmers as suppliers. The plan is for the government to take over the programme entirely by 2028.
The value chains expert Lim Naluch, from FAO-Cambodia, presented how the rapid assessment of nutrition sensitive value chains helped to identify qualified local producers and locally available commodities that have the potential to contribute to the nutrition status of school-age children. The FAO technical support allowed identifying 26 pre-selected local commodities through nutrition-sensitive value chains analysis. The expert pointed out that local leafy vegetables have potential to increase nutrition and economic when supplied to schools.
Shawel Moreda, FAO project coordinator in Ethiopia, highlighted some assessment results from a project implemented by FAO on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Social Protection Project. The Home-grown school feeding programme is implemented by the government with financial support and technical support from WFP. He also mentioned that the focus of the programme is to reduce hunger and nutrient deficiency, improve school performance and attendance, teach healthy eating habits to children and adolescents, and support the local agriculture and local economy.
For Mary Igbinnosa, from WFP’s South Africa Regional Office in Johannesburg, a food system approach was taken to identify the challenges impacting school feeding with local procurement and to identify points of intersection with other activities to create specific solutions. One of the examples she brought up refers to Namibia. This country’ school feeding programme did not initially consider the capacity of local food systems to supply the demand from schools. According to Ms. Igbinnosa, “you have to take a holistic approach to designing school feeding programmes with local procurement”.
The main topics of the second workshop were capacity development, value chain development and diets diversification. During the meeting, participants had the opportunity to discuss how nutrition sensitive value chains analyses can be used to improve the capacities of small-scale farmers to supply nutritious food to school feeding programmes.
Bin Liu, FAO, presented the different entry points of nutrition-sensitive value chains for Home-Grown School Feeding. He explained how different measures could be used to increase the supply and demand of nutritious foods at each step of the food supply chain from production to consumption.
Oleta Williams, project coordinator from FAO Guyana, shared her long experience with school feeding in the country. There are four sub-types of school feeding programmes currently implemented in the country: Peanut Butter and Cassava Bread, Juices and Biscuits, Community Hot Meal Programme, and the Breakfast Programme. These programmes serve 81,417 students, which represents 48.6% of Guyana’s school age population. FAO has supported smallholder producers with supplying nutritious food to the Community Hot Meal Programme. She also shared a video showing the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme initiative in the country.
The Centre of Excellence also shared the experience of the Beyond Cotton project in Benin. Through South-South and Triangular Cooperation, this project supports cotton producers in marketing associated food crops to increase the income of smallholder farmers and improve their food security. The project works with about 2,000 small farmers and 50 schools. According to Nayla Almeida, project assistant from the Centre of Excellence, “the project aims to market the products associated with cotton, such as sorghum, corn, fruits, vegetables and animal products, to accessible markets, local markets, including school feeding programmes”.
Another issue discussed was how fish can enrich diets and add value to nutrition-sensitive chains associated with school feeding programmes with local suppliers. According to Jogeir Toppe, Fisheries Industry Officer at FAO, fish is not only a good source of protein, but also of omega 3, vitamin D, iron, and other nutrients, besides making up more than 50% of the annual protein diet of developing countries.
Finally, Sineide Neres, Advisor to the General Coordination of the National School Feeding Programme (PNAE) of Brazil, presented the National Programme for Indigenous School Feeding. With nearly seventy years of existence, the Programme aims to offer healthy meals and promote food and nutrition education in indigenous schools, respecting traditions and eating habits of each ethnic group. The Programme serves more than 3,000 schools and more than 230,000 students.