The 20th annual Global Child Nutrition Forum is expected to gather 300 participants representing 50 countries to discuss the theme National School Meal Programs for Food and Nutrition Security and Multiple Social Benefits. The Forum is the largest annual international conference on school feeding in the world, and this year it will take place in Tunis, Tunisia, from 21 to 25 October.
The Global Child Nutrition Forum is a learning exchange and technical assistance conference designed to support countries in the development and implementation of school feeding programmes. Representatives of governments, NGOs, businesses, UN agencies, and the academia are expected in Tunis.
“The Forum aims to highlight issues related to child nutrition around the world, foster cooperation between nations and encourage countries to develop and improve school nutrition programs that return multiple benefits and address multiple Sustainable Development Goals,” remarked Arlene Mitchell, Executive Director, Global Child Nutrition Foundation. “It is also a wonderful opportunity to raise public awareness about nutrition challenges facing children in all countries and to share experience and tools to address those challenges.”
Every year, the Forum brings together leaders from 50 countries around the world for intensive training, technical assistance and planning, to facilitate the establishment of country-operated sustainable school feeding programmes. By sharing their insights, experiences, and challenges, an informal worldwide alliance of leaders dedicated to advancing school feeding has evolved. As a result, the Forum has become a global catalyst for school feeding development.
“School feeding programmes have the potential to unlock multiple benefits for school children, their families, communities, and entire nations,” said Daniel Balaban, director of the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger. “Gathering high-level officials from 50 countries every year to discuss strategies to strengthen school feeding translates into stronger governmental commitment to school feeding and into positive impacts on education, health, and socio-economic indicators.”
Organized by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and the WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger, in partnership with varying host countries, each year the Forum encourages open dialogue and the sharing of experiences, best practices, lessons learned, challenges and options to sustainably support nutritious home-grown school feeding programmes. Participants return to serve as resources in their countries and often for neighbouring countries that are also in the process of developing school feeding programmes.
The Forum is hosted in a different country each year, affording participants the opportunity to visit local schools and see one another’s programmes in action. In 2018, the government of Tunisia is hosting the Forum, with support from the World Food Programme country office. Participants will have the opportunity to visit schools and a food bank to see first-hand Tunisia’s school feeding programme, which reaches 260,000 children in 2,500 schools.
“Tunisia has recognised school meals as a social safety net that can contribute to education and nutrition, while enhancing stability and social protection” said the Tunisian Minister of Education, Hatem Ben Salem. “The school is the children’s first point of contact with the state, and the positive experience of sharing a nutritious meal at school can foster the children’s love for their country, helping them build a sense of justice and belonging”.
This is the first time the Forum is hosted in the Middle East and North Africa, a region which provides many examples of how school feeding programmes can function as platforms for multiple benefits, both in emergencies and in more stable contexts.