School feeding programmes provide a social safety net for millions of children every year. But more than that, they are also helping to strengthen the food value chain in developing countries, creating demand for locally produced food and stimulating economic development.
Tetra Pak, which is part of the Tetra Laval Group, has supported school feeding programmes for over 50 years. I joined Tetra Laval Food for Development Office as a Senior Project Manager in 2004. My job portfolio includes the support of existing feeding programmes that are using Tetra Pak packages, and to facilitate the mobilization stakeholders to initiate new feeding programmes in countries where there is unmet demand of safe food in schools. I have implemented activities in 36 countries across Africa, Asia, central and south America and the Middle East.
The process of implementing school feeding programmes is different each time, and can be challenging. Proper preparation is crucial, as is good communication between all stakeholders from the start. We need to know the health status of children before a programme is initiated to be able to measure the impact of feeding. A key component of my technical support role is to ensure that school staff maintains proper records regarding school feeding product stock movements and individual consumption data.
Success can be measured in many ways: through improved health, increased classroom attendance and improved academic performance; and by the creation of more sustainable food value chains involving locally produced and processed food. But there is another indicator that is crucial for effective programme implementation: community involvement. You need to get communities actively involved in the practicalities from the start. Creating a sense of ownership of the programme is the foundation of sustainable school feeding in a country.
My job is sometimes challenging – but it also brings huge rewards. When I see how excited the children are to be drinking their milk or juice, when I look at the data and see that attendance is up 10%, it’s very gratifying. That really is what makes it all worthwhile.
Markus Huet, Tetra Laval Food for Development Office