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UN backs plans to ensure school meals for every child in need by 2030

19 Nov 2021
Five United Nations (UN) agencies have supported an international coalition to improve the nutrition, health and education of school-age children from around the world.

In a joint declaration the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) committed to assisting the School Meals Coalition in which over 60 countries envision a nutritious meal in school for every child in need by 2030.

Led by France and Finland the coalition committed to ‘smart’ school meals programmes that combine regular meals in schools with health and nutrition interventions.

The UN leaders said in their declaration: School health and nutrition programmes are impactful interventions to support schoolchildren and adolescents’ growth and development. They can help to combat child poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. They attract children to school and support children’s learning, and long-term health and well-being.”

Where possible the UN plans to use locally grown food to support national and local markets as well as improving opportunities for smaller farmers and local catering businesses- many of which are led by women.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused ‘extensive disruption’ to schools and education worldwide. Today, more than 150 million children globally are still missing out on meals and essential health and nutrition services.

The coalition aims to:

  • Restore the school meals and other health and nutrition programmes that were in place before the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Expand them to reach an additional 73 million children who were not covered before the pandemic.
  • Establish standards to raise food quality while linking them to local food production, where possible.

David Beasley, executive director at the WFP, added: “The School Meals Coalition has the potential to help countries recover from the Covid-19 crisis. School feeding programmes can get children back in school, fix the damage done to their education, create jobs locally and enable smallholder farmers to earn a sustainable living to feed their families.”