How to run a school lunch program

school feeding menu

Each day, millions of primary schools going children go hungry every day. School feeding programs is a multifaceted solution to reduce hunger while increasing school enrollment. For most vulnerable children, the single mid-day school meal is the only meal they rely on. Given the importance of the school feeding programs, they should offer more than full bellies.

In this blog post, learn how to set up and maintain a sustainable or home-grown school feeding programs. The post covers the following areas.

  • Benefits of school feeding programs
  • Types of school feeding programs
  • Challenges of school feeding programs
  • How to run a homegrown school feeding program in your community

Benefits of school feeding programs

Apart from assisting in enabling right to food and life school feeding program does more for the vulnerable learners than fighting hunger and malnutrition. A poor child suffering from classroom hunger is also likely to suffer from other social disenfranchisements like abject poverty, health, gender discrimination and poverty.

Apart from assisting in enabling right to food and life, a good school feeding project is an answer to a complex web of social challenges. It has many objectives and benefits as follows;

  1. Improve education performance; school meals operate as an effective tool to draw and keep children in the classrooms. Well-fed children concentrate better in class and as such, they can perform better in classes. In addition, it keeps children in school discouraging absenteeism
  2. Lifelong impact: Well-nourished young learners have a chance to grow up and become more empowered adults with access to high levels of education, higher household earnings, healthier, longer and more productive lives.
  3. Food security and public health benefits; provision of healthy diets to children facilitates their healthy growth and development as well as Keeping them away from nutritional diseases. Besides, school meal programs may include de-worming and provision of nutritional diverse meals for healthy communities thus reducing malnutrition and obese incidences.
  4. Knowledge and technology transfer: school meals projects serve as a means of spreading knowledge to the community about health, hygiene, nutrition and food production, preparation and preservation
  5. Job and wealth creation; Home grown school feeding program creates employment for many Cooks, Farmers, Aggregators and other Stakeholders improving their livelihoods as well as promoting local and national economic growth and development.
  6. Gender and social equity; School feeding programs can improve education  and inclusion for girls and poor learners where they are disadvantaged on the basis of patriarchal, caste, community or religious barriers as children eat, play and study together

Types of school feeding programs

There are different approaches or types of school feeding. They include mid-day or lunch programs, cash transfer programs. In some programs, the learners are offered meals free of charge, while in others they cost share or buy food direct from food vendors. To understand this, we will consider 5 examples across the globe.

Home grown school feeding programs.

These are government led school feeding programs that use farm produce that is locally grown by small farmer farmers to feed learners in public school programs.  The United Nations World food program (WFP) is the key driver behind such programs to make more sustainable and effective.

Examples are the Ghana National Home frown school feeding program

Commercial school feeding program

These are profitable food catering businesses that sell quality food to learners at profit. Learners, well-wishers, government or parents may provide cash to pupils. The food catering firm undertakes to source, prepare and deliver balanced diet food rations like breakfast and lunch on time.

Charity Based School feeding programs

The backbone of these are volunteers, well-wishers and donors who run school feeding programs for their communities, old schools or locality.

An Example is the LISHA school feeding program in Nanyuki, Kenya. It receives voluntary funding and donations in Kind from business in the town.

Challenges of school feeding programs

Though school feeding programs has many benefits, they are not immune to social, economical and political challenges. Some of the key ones derailing these nutritional programs are;

Funding gaps

School feeding programs suffer from insufficient funding as schools, the business community, civil society, government and most importantly, the parents have other priorities that need same funding.

Other resource challenges include fraud, delays in cash disbursement and inflation of food prices.

Poor nutritional quality of school meals

Many school feeding programs are poor nutritional quality serving staple and processed food products. As a result, some programs can lead to obesity or malnutrition related issues. As such there is a need for program managers to implement nutritional sensitive school meals programs that serve well balanced diets.

Sustainability challenges

In addition to funding and nutrition related challenges, most of projects aren’t sustainable beyond charity or government funding. Besides the suffer from corruption from officials, looting of food by starving individuals and other logistical challenges.


School feeding programmes work by feeding the child away from home. Though this targeting method has a cost-saving implication, it ends up excluding other vulnerable household members and the community at large. The other inclusion issue is marginalization or lack feeding programs in private schools, urban areas and rural areas traditionally considered rich.

How to run a homegrown school feeding program in your community

Modern school feeding programs are designed in a way to overcome the above challenges. In addition, they are built on pillars of accountability, sustainability, and collaboration. Besides, it should complement other development programs and embrace effectiveness and efficiency.

Home grown school feeding programs are designed as such. According to the WFP HGSP is more sustainable because

  • Farmers and local businesses benefit from school-driven market demand
  • children benefit from eating culturally diverse, familiar, nutritious, locally grown foods.”
  • local markets, communities and national economies, enjoy a boost in growth development that help in educational opportunities, social protection, gender empowerment and economic growth through agricultural value chain improvements.

This can be achieved through 2 interventions in your community as follows.

Awareness creation

  • Work with communities surrounding schools to increase food production quantity and quality
  • Sensitize school and communities to improve their income generation activities including working with farmers to produce for the market by ensuring consistent quality and quantity of yields
  • improve household’s health and nutrition by diversifying their diet by utilizing locally grown/available food in the region

Value chain development & horizontal integration

Mobilize small-scale farmers or re-orient existing groups in the region into viable farmer groups.  Organized farmers can operate as single units and work jointly in procuring appropriate farm inputs, produce jointly, and carry out marketing of produce together for logistical benefits 

Second linking farmers and traders to cheaper credit and relevant technical knowledge in production, transformation and consumption.

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