Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo

WFP Begins Building a Global Coalition to Support School Feeding Worldwide

Published March 12, 2021

This is a summary of what was said by the United Nations World Food Programme spokesperson Tomson Phiri – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA –The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has begun to convene a coalition of stakeholders to support governments to restore and boost access to school feeding for the most vulnerable children.

At the request of the African Union and member states such as Finland and France, the school feeding coalition – composed of stakeholders drawn from governments, development agencies, donors, academia, the private sector, UN agencies and civil society organizations – employs a “big tent” approach where all stakeholders interested in school feeding can converge.

The coalition aims to find sustainable and innovative funding sources for school feeding programs, strengthen evidence and guidance to improve said programs and bring together multiple sectors to achieve better outcomes for school children globally.

Why is this important and why now?

One in two schoolchildren, equivalent to 388 million children worldwide, had been receiving school meals when the pandemic struck – the highest number in history, according to the State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020 report. By April 2020, 199 countries had closed schools leaving 370 million children without school meals. Therefore, the intiative comes at a crucial time.

The coalition, which will be built during the course of 2021 and launched at the Food Systems Summit in September, has already gained support from stakeholders. The Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Ville Skinnari, is the founding member of a high-level steering committee to support a global scale up of school meal programs.

School feeding is a game changer. It is a game changer for children, parents, smallholder farmers and indeed for the entire community.  Activities help stave off hunger, support long-term health and help a child learn and thrive. This is especially true for girls: in places where there is a school meals program, girls attend and stay in school longer, child marriage rates go down and teen pregnancies decrease.

Where they use locally produced food, school feeding activities can enhance a community’s economy. School feeding programs can have an additional effect of helping local economies recover from the impact of COVID-19 with 2,000 jobs created for every 100,000 children fed contributing to stable markets, boosting local agriculture and strengthening local food systems.

While Finland is the first to lend support to the initiative. No one actor can achieve this alone, and the U.N. World Food Programme looks forward to more partners joining the coalition over the coming months before being launched at the Food Systems Summit at the end of the year.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change. Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media, @PhiriTomson