WFP, Rockfeller Foundation launch scheme for nutritious school meals in India

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Rockefeller Foundation on Wednesday launched a new initiative to help vulnerable children in India get better access to nutritious food through school meal schemes.

The two-and-a-half-year initiative will focus on including fortified foods in school meals and advocating for more nutritious food throughout such programmes. A total of 325,000 children in Rajasthan are expected to benefit from kitchen gardens, the organisations said.

The Rockefeller Foundation announced a grant of $10.7 million for the programme to be implemented by WFP in India, Benin, Ghana and Honduras, a statement said.

In India, the project will support technical assistance provided by WFP to the government’s school feeding programme, and it seeks to reach more than 110 million school children through food fortification and communication campaigns that encourage healthier eating, according to the statement.

The project will strengthen supply chains and minimise food waste for rice, wheat and millet. It will also promote local food production, benefiting small farmers, and provide school cooks with information on optimal nutrition for children.

In Benin, Ghana and Honduras, the project is expected to benefit more than one million school children.

“WFP and the Rockefeller Foundation share a commitment to ending hunger, strengthening food systems and ensuring life-long prosperity for all,” said Carmen Burbano, director of WFP’s school feeding division.

“This project advances the WFP’s 60-year support of national school feeding programmes but reaches even farther, aiming to transform the systems that bring food to school children and their families.”

Roy Steiner, senior vice president for the Rockefeller Foundation’s food initiative, said school meals give tens of millions of children in the four countries their only reliable meal of the day. “Expanding school feeding programmes in ways that promote the procurement of highly nutritious food will make those children healthier even as it catalyses larger changes in the food system,” he said.

The new project builds on a previous grant to WFP from the Rockefeller Foundation to address malnutrition among children in Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda. The grants are part of the Foundation’s Good Food strategy, which focuses on increasing access to affordable, healthy food, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system, and expanding economic opportunities for small- and mid-size food producers.

India invests more than $1.6 billion every year to reach 118 million children with the world’s biggest programme for school meals. This is part of subsidised monthly rations for more than 800 million people.

The statement said studies have shown school meal programmes can also support local agriculture, markets and healthier diets while improving health, nutrition and education in vulnerable communities. “However, countries often struggle to provide adequate healthy foods to prevent malnutrition in school-aged children,” it said.

“More recently, school feeding programmes have also had to contend with the increasing costs of wheat and maize due to the combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine,” it added.