Photo: WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo/2022

Solving Hunger in Southern Madagascar: How School Meals Are Keeping Children Fed and in the Classroom

World Food Programme
Published March 2, 2022

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is working with partner Michael Kors to ensure children stay in school and receive the nutrition they need to thrive. 

Meet Seraphin and Edmond Vorizo From Southern Madagascar

“When I grow up, I want to be the chief of the U.N. World Food Programme – like Edmond Vorizo,” said 12-year-old Seraphin.

While not technically chief of the U.N. World Food Programme, Edmond Daniel Vorizo is a member of the U.N. World Food Programme’s staff in southern Madagascar and helps run our operations there. “I’m a hydrogeological engineer, but I (also) work for the U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding program,” Vorizo said.

WFP staff in blue shirt and brown vest
Photo: WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo, Tovo Cam/2022

“School meals are helping curb household costs for vulnerable families,” Vorizo said.

Drought Is Drying up Land and Driving Hunger

In the town of Ifotaka in southern Madagascar, water is on everyone’s mind. Three years of drought have left the land cracked and dry, the crops withered. In a region where 80 percent of people depend on agriculture to survive, one in two now faces the threat of hunger.

“Water has been very rare, here,” said Seraphin. “To fetch it, we need to walk three miles and always come back late at night.”

Long, arduous walks are nothing new to Seraphin. Until recently, getting to school meant walking for three hours to the Primary Public School in Tsarapioke – and three hours back. The journey became increasingly lonely for Seraphin as his fellow students, simply too hungry to make the trek, dropped out of school.

School Meals Are Feeding Families and Stirring Hope

Thankfully, things are finally looking up. Working with the community, Vorizo and the U.N. World Food Programme have established a canteen that doubles as a school for the children of Ifotaka and neighboring villages. The initiative is part of the U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding program, with critical support from partners like world-renowned fashion designer Michael Kors. Kors has been working with the U.N. World Food Programme for almost a decade now to help provide healthy, nutritious meals for girls and boys in hungry regions of the world.

“Solutions to hunger need to be thoughtful,” said designer Michael Kors. “And the U.N. World Food Programme’s school feeding initiatives are precisely that: thoughtful, impactful ways of reaching children like Seraphin not just with food – but with opportunity, hope and the prospect of a happier, safer life.”

people walking in straight line across desert landscape
Photo: WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo/2022

Parents in Ifotaka support the school meals initiative and have formed a canteen management committee.

Through the global Watch Hunger Stop campaign in support of the U.N. World Food Programme — now in its ninth year — Michael Kors has helped shine a spotlight on the issue of hunger in schools, while raising funds to help the organization deliver more than 29 million meals to children in need.

“We have three goals,” said Vorizo. “The first is to keep kids in school — many quit because they’re starving.” A second aim of the initiative is to support the children’s parents. “Families here can only afford one meal a day — by providing an extra one in school, we want to help with household expenses,” he said.

“The third objective is to increase schooling rates. And it’s working. Since we established the canteen, children registered for school here have more than doubled, going from 157 to 327.” Vorizo added: “I know this is my lahatra,” using the Malagasy word for destiny.

young boy eats bowl of food
Photo: WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo/2022

Thanks to the canteen, children in Ifotaka can enjoy a hot, healthy meal every day.

“With support from partners like Michael Kors, the U.N. World Food Programme is now the largest provider of school meals in the region,” said Pasqualina Di Sirio, U.N. World Food Programme country director in Madagascar.

boy in brown and orange shirt smiling
Photo: WFP/Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo/2022

“Because of this canteen, I can now study here, close to my house,” Seraphin said. “No more three-hour walks to the school in Tsarapioke.” He spends this newly found free time with friends or playing a mandolin he’s made himself.

Whether Seraphin’s lahatra – his destiny – to become a musician or chief of the U.N. World Food Programme is not yet clear. But as long as he has a full stomach and a school to attend, those possibilities – and more – are all open to him.

WFP does not endorse any product or service. This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories on March 1, 2022 and was written by Matthew Stevens.