News / Africa

School Lunches Vital to Children's Health, Education says World Food Program

Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), dishes out lunch to pupils, (File photo).
Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), dishes out lunch to pupils, (File photo).
Jennifer Lazuta
Educators in low-income areas everywhere struggle with one of the most basic hurdles to teaching children - students showing up to school hungry. 

The U.N. World Food Program said in its 2013 State of School Feeding Worldwide report that supplying meals and snacks to students is a proven benefit, but that the programs are still not reaching children who need them most. Researchers have found that supplying free lunches to students in rural primary schools not only made them healthier, it raised their test scores.

During the academic school year of 2009-2010, researchers in Senegal did an experiment.

They took 120 rural primary schools in four of the poorest regions of Senegal.

Students at half the schools received free, daily lunches - a local dish of rice with vegetables, either fish or meat, cooked in oil.

Students at the other 60 schools did not.

The director of the Consortium for Social Economic Research (CRES) in Dakar, Abdoulaye Diagne, led the study.

He said students who received school meals were better able to memorize and reason.  He said they learned and understood more than those students who did not receive meals.

Standardized test scores, the study found, went up an average of 7 percentage points in French and 8.5 percentage points in math.  The effect was much greater for girls and the youngest students.

The study also compared the nutritional value of meals supplied at school with what kids would normally eat at home, and found the nutritional well-being of students who received the meals improved over the course of the year.

The World Food Program says that about $75 billion goes into school feeding programs each year worldwide.  Most of this money comes from governments.

However, the WFP said only 18 percent of children in the poorest countries receive a daily meal at school, compared to nearly half of children in middle-income countries.

"School meals are a crucially important part and play a huge role in schools around the world.  It means, in practicalities, kids can concentrate.  They can study.  They stay in school.  They will send their own children to school one day.  Girls will have fewer children if they have school meals and an education; they marry at a later stage," stated Bettina Luescher, World Food Program spokesperson. "And there’s this huge impact on how they grow up to become strong, smart adults."

Luescher said that school feeding programs also buffer children from crises - like droughts, war, or a spike in food prices. “Then, school meals are a way of keeping children in school.  It’s often the only way that families can afford to keep their children fed.  And sometimes it’s the only meal that some of these children get,” Luescher added.

The big drawback is the cost - especially in low-income countries where the cost of feeding programs is often more than annual tuition.

However, the WFP estimates that for every dollar spent on a school meal, countries will see three dollars in economic returns: Local farmers, for example, benefit because they can sell their food to the school meal programs, and the country builds a smarter workforce.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More