Mozambican primary school children in the Maputo Province have been enjoying a daily, fortified, protein-rich school lunch for several years thanks to Planet Aid and ADPP Mozambique’s Food for Knowledge Project (FFK) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. This regular supply of nutritious food offered through the project is a reason to celebrate International School Meals Day each year; however, recently the program embarked on a new initiative focused on long-term sustainability.
Beginning in mid-2017, four FFK-participating schools became part of the new Home Grown School Feeding Garden (HGSFG) program. This new initiative is establishing small farms near schools to produce various crops to complement the regularly supplied school meals: a porridge blend of corn and soy flour that is fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Through this fortified corn-soy blend, FFK has been helping to reduce malnutrition in Mozambique and will continue to do so through 2020. So far, FFK has been feeding children at 270 schools and serving 12 million meals per year.
The newly supplied leafy greens and other vegetables from the farms supplement the corn-soy blend, adding essential vitamins and minerals to the children’s diets (the farms will also soon begin raising livestock.)
Some of the produce is also sold in local markets, with the earnings being reinvested into the farms and thereby helping ensure their long-term sustainability. By demonstrating the viability of the farms to be self-sufficient in this way, the FFK project is helping develop a model for locally based school feeding programs in Mozambique.
Fidélio Pelembe, the headmaster of Pedreira Primary School where a new garden has been established, said that student attendance and performance has improved markedly. “We grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, onions, maize, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cassava, tomatoes, and fruits like banana.”
The lunchtime meals have been having a visible impact on health. “In the last [health] surveys that we carried out, we didn’t detect any cases of malnutrition,” said Pelembe. “This can be the direct result of the establishment of the farm, taking into account that what we produced a variety of nutrients that help the children overcome many health problems which they were facing.”
Planet Aid and ADPP Mozambique are excited to continue implementing and developing the HGSFG Program, and are working toward establishing four additional farms at other schools in the coming year. This initiative will continue to make strides in reducing malnutrition, and help make school meals in Mozambique a long-term reality.