Before the pandemic, school feeding was the most extensive social safety net globally, with one in every two schoolchildren receiving school meals every day from national programmes. According to the recently released AU Biennial Report on Home-Grown School Feeding, 65.4 million children across Africa received school meals in 2019 – a staggering 71 percent increase from 38.4 million in 2013. This reflected the understanding that, by feeding the potential of young generations, school meals are a smart investment in any nation’s human capital development efforts.

 

“There is a virus killing our children. Its name is hunger, and the vaccine is food. Governments and other stakeholders should help mitigate hunger now.” -- Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union

 

But with schools closed, the progress made is at risk of being reversed. Even before the pandemic, 60 million vulnerable children did not have access to meals at school. Then, in April 2020, 50 million children lost access to school meals due to school closures. The stakes couldn’t be higher as many children, especially girls, risk never returning to the classroom.

The ongoing pandemic doesn’t only threaten millions of children across Africa and the world. It has also exposed the fragility of food systems and everyone who lives and works around them. Challenges such as the banning of foreign trucks, reductions in flights, hygiene and sanitation measures, mandatory quarantine periods for border crossings affected food supply routes. The ensuing crisis has highlighted the need to reshape food systems to build back more resilient and inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and economically vibrant communities. School feeding can be part of this process.

 

Read the full article by Mohamed Abdiweli Ahmed and Leslie Crosdale of WFP's Advocacy Team on medium.com.