“Without food we cannot learn!” is Janet’s confident reply to her teacher as she asks the 70 children of ClassA3 about the importance of school meals. All the pupils at Atomic D, a school on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, are given daily school meals.
The meals make a big difference and Janet is one of the lucky ones - every day sixty million children go to school hungry in developing countries. Children that don’t eat don’t learn. In addition to this, 600 million children have reduced access to education and poor health due to entirely preventable parasite worm infections.
In the same communities, smallholder farmers, often unable to reach a market, struggle to make a living selling their food. The solution is clear: local food for local children - Home Grown School Feeding Programs (GSFP) which look after the health and wealth of the whole community.
In partnership with the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), a global leader in the field of school health and nutrition programs, Dubai Cares is supporting the Government of Ghana to improve the education, health and nutrition of over 300,000 school age children living in poverty and food insecurity. At the same time, the program is providing farmer communities with reliable markets to sell their produce.
School health and nutrition interventions have been shown to improve not only children’s health and nutrition, but also their learning potential and life choices both in the short- and long-term. As such, these interventions are recognized as making a significant contribution towards countries’ efforts to achieve Education for All and their Millennium Development Goals.
In Africa, the Government of Ghana is at the forefront of developing programs which tackle these issues. The GSFP began as a pilot in 10 schools in late 2005 and since has progressively grown to serve 4500 schools and 1,600,000 pupils in 170 districts. Before the GSFP, students used to pay for their meals. Those who could not afford their food either borrowed money or stayed without food.
As recalled by Janet’s classmate Isaac “…without school meals, some pupils can faint in class. Others start stealing their friends’ money, or even stop going to school…”
Dubai Cares, with the support of PCD, is working with the GSFP to improve the nutritional quality of the food being provided, ensuring that the nutrition requirements for energy, protein, vitamins A and C, Iron, Zinc and iodine of children 7-10 years old can be met using a variety of foods.