School Lunch Programs

Children who eat better, learn better.

School lunch programs play a vital role in ensuring that hungry children are taken care of each school day and building a healthy, productive tomorrow for children.

  • Alleviating poverty
  • Bettering educational outcomes
  • Improving children’s long-term health and wellness

In this post we will cover:

What is a School Lunch Program?

For children living in poverty, going back to school is a time of uncertainty.
How can they study when they are hungry?

In both developed and developing countries, there are NGOs, charities and other organisations that provide free or subsidised school lunches as part of school lunch programs.

School lunch programs around the world reduce hunger, prevent malnutrition, and provide essential nutrition not always available at home.

Every school day, millions of school children around the world benefit from receiving these school lunches while they attend school.

School lunch programs can often provide the only daily meal that children living in poverty may get.

About half of the world’s schoolchildren receive a daily meal in school, much of it funded by NGOs.

The school lunches are normally assessed by the organisation that provides them, the school itself, and sometimes local authorities to ensure they provide balanced nutrition and energy to the children.

Well-designed school nutrition programs ensure that children eat a diverse, balanced diet with appropriate micro and macro-nutrients.

What countries do we organize School Lunch programs in?

Canadian Feed the Children runs School Lunch programs in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Canada.

Many NGOs run school lunch programs in developing countries. But you may be surprised that there are an estimated 1.15 million children (1 in 6) in Canada affected by food insecurity.

The benefits of school lunch programs:

Better health and nutrition for children

School meals improve all aspects of children’s health and well-being. Especially for the youngest children, adequate nutrition provided in early childhood care and development centres has a huge impact on fostering healthy child development.

But children throughout primary and secondary grades all benefit from consistent, nutritious meals in school.

Better educational outcomes

School meals offer an incentive for children to attend and remain in school. Not only does the prospect of receiving food at school encourage children to attend, but kids with full tummies learn better. They are better able to concentrate, have more energy, their memory and problem-solving skills are better and they exhibit less disruptive behaviour.

Long-term academic outcomes are also noted: lower drop-out, higher graduation, better performance on standardized tests, and more.

Benefits for the whole family

For those living in poverty, school lunch programs can help the whole family. They stretch food budgets so that pre-school children and parents all get more food.

Plus, they are often complemented by parental support programs including nutrition training, livelihoods development, and other opportunities to increase household income.

Gender equality

Receiving a meal in school particularly benefits girls.

In many communities worldwide, girls’ education is undervalued and girls are therefore vulnerable to dropping out or being taken out of school, often to be sent away to work or subjected to early marriage.
Not only do early marriage and early childbearing present dangers to girls in and of themselves, but lower educational attainment affects women’s longer-term earning capacity miring them and their children in an inter-generational cycle of poverty.

Local economy-building and agricultural development

One of the best practices in delivering school lunch programs is to ensure that food is purchased – and, even better, grown – locally.

Procuring food locally creates stable markets that benefit growers and sellers, typically the parents and caregivers of school children, so there is a cycle of increased food and income for better all-round nutrition.

School nutrition programs that are integrated with local food systems are community and spirit-builders.
School gardens, for example, provide a local supply of fruits and vegetables and also offer community members, parents, teachers, and school children the opportunity to build skills around food production and preparation, gain important information about nutrition and healthy eating, and celebrate community food traditions.

What do School Lunches look like?

In 2018, Canadian Feed The Children delivered 2.8 million healthy meals & snacks to school children in Bolivia, Canada, Ethiopia and Uganda.

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Providing lunches in Bolivia's Early Childhood Education Centres ensure children are given the best possible start to life.
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School meals in Ethiopia ensure children receive at least one healthy, substantial meal a day.
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In Uganda, school meals have increased school attendance in some schools to 98%.
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In Canada the focus is on fresh, healthy foods in First Nations communities.
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