The global food, fuel, and financial crises have given new
prominence to school feeding as a potential safety net and as a social
support measure that helps keep children in school. Rethinking
School Feeding: Social Safety Nets, Child Development, and the Educator
Sector was written jointly by the World Bank Group and the World
Food Programme (WFP), building on the comparative advantages of both
organizations. It examines the evidence base for school feeding
programs with the objective of better understanding how to develop and
implement effective school feeding programs in two contexts: as a
productive safety net that is part of the response to the social shocks
of the global crises and as a fiscally sustainable investment in human
capital, as part of long-term global efforts to achieve Education for
All and to provide social protection to the poor.
School feeding programs provide an explicit or implicit transfer to
households and can increase school attendance, cognition, and
educational achievement, particularly if supported by complementary
actions such as deworming and food fortification. When combined with
local purchases of food, school feeding can potentially be a force
multiplier, benefiting both children and the local economy.
Today, every country for which we have information is seeking to
provide food, in some way and at some scale, to its schoolchildren.
Coverage is most complete in high- and middle-income
countries—indeed it seems that most countries that can afford to
provide food for their school children do so. But where the need is
greatest, in terms of hunger, poverty, and poor social indicators, the
programs tend to be the smallest, though usually targeted to the most
food insecure regions. These programs are also those most reliant on
external support, and WFP supports nearly all of them. So the key issue
today is not whether countries will implement school feeding programs,
but how and with what objective. The near universality of school
feeding provides important opportunities for WFP, the World Bank, and
other development partners to assist governments in rolling-out
productive safety nets as part of the response to the current global
crises and to sow the seeds for school feeding programs to transition
into fiscally sustainable investments in human capital in the future.
Rethinking School Feeding will be useful to government agencies
and nonprofit organizations working in education reform and food and
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