On January 31 the African Union adopted homegrown school feeding programs as a continental strategy to enhance attendance and performance of students in school and as a way to boost income generation for local smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs who work in the school meals supply chain. The strategy encourages Member States that have school feeding programs to continue their efforts and invites other Member States to learn and adapt lessons from those running school feeding programs. The strategy also establishes March 1 as the African Day of School Feeding.
This exciting announcement comes at a time when more and more countries around the world are seeing school meals as a strategic investment with good future returns; not just as an expense. I will be attending the first ever African Day of School Feeding, which will get underway on March 1 in Niamey, Niger.
Countries from around Africa and around the world will gather to celebrate the amazing benefits associated with school meals: school meals support children to go to school and learn. They also support the farmers and other workers who produce the food, ensure that it gets to the schools, and that it is properly prepared and safe for the children to eat. School meals also help to bridge economic, cultural, and social divides.
The gathering in Niamey directly precedes International School Meals Day (ISMD) on March 3. While it may seem unfortunate that these events are not on the same day, the stories and lessons learned from African countries will serve as an exciting prelude to the connections and sharing that will take place for ISMD. ISMD aims to raise awareness of the importance of the nutritional quality of school meal programs worldwide by emphasizing the connection between healthy eating, education and better learning. ISMD also serves as a platform to connect children around the world to learn about school meals in other countries.
We hope that the excitement and celebration in Africa will spill onto the global stage March 3 as schools and children around the world connect and share stories about school meals and their many benefits. Be sure to explore all of the ways you can connect with others on March 3: through Skype in the Classroom, telephone, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and any of many other ways of connecting.
Every child, no matter where they live, deserves access to nutritious food at school– sharing our experiences and stories as a global community helps us get one step closer to this ultimate goal.
Arlene Mitchell – Executive Director, Global Child Nutrition Foundation