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School feeding programmes encourage children to attend school

There are 300 million chronically hungry children in the world. 100 million of them do not attend school. The majority are girls.

Among the poor, there is often not enough food at home and most schools in developing countries do not have canteens or cafeterias.

On empty stomachs, kids become easily distracted and have problems concentrating on their lessons. This short-term hunger impedes a child's ability to learn and achieve.

In many cases, severe malnutrition results in mental and physical stunting. This, in turn, puts an added burden on poor nations.

Research confirms, however, that basic education is the most effective investment to improve economies and create literate, self-reliant and healthy societies.

WFP has become the largest organiser of school feeding programmes in the developing world. In 2003, WFP fed more than 15 million children in schools in 69 countries. Working with national governments, local authorities, donors and international and local aid groups, WFP uses food to attract children to school and to keep them there.

Concentration is put on areas where enrolment ratios are lowest and where school feeding will have the greatest impact. It is in these schools that WFP sets up canteens where children receive hot food and nutritious snacks.

When food is available at school, attendance rates increase significantly. Research shows that when a school meal is provided, enrolments can double within a year.

The agency works closely with the community and parents to ensure that its school feeding projects are sustainable. To date, more than 20 countries have ‘graduated’ from WFP school feeding, taking over full responsibility themselves.

Sidebar: Focus on Girls

  • Girls who go to school marry later and have 50 per cent fewer children on average.
  • Each additional year of schooling for a mother results in a 5-10 per cent decrease in mortality among her children.
  • Two out of every three children in the world who do not attend primary school are girls. Half of all women in developing countries are unable to read and write.
  • A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute concluded that 44 per cent of the reduction in child malnutrition between 1970 and 1995 is attributable to increases in women's education.


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