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On the 1st March, the continent of Africa joins together to mark the Africa Day of School Feeding. A day when countries celebrate and acknowledge the impact that providing a school meal can have on the health, education and wealth of communities up and down the continent.
One place where this celebration will be felt most keenly is in Nigeria. A country whose government has developed, implemented and funded one of the largest and most ambitious school feeding programmes ever attempted in Africa.
Launched in 2016, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme has grown quickly to provide hot, nutritionally balanced school meals to over 7 million children every school day.
This growth is the product of US$ 61 million invested each year by the Nigerian Government as part of a wider National Social Investment Programme designed to support economically challenged and vulnerable groups across the country.
The HGSF programme which uses food procured from local smallholder farmers has been described as a 'win-win-win' for the communities who are engaged with the programme. School children benefit from free nutritionally balanced hot meals; local agricultural economies benefit from being able to supply the schools with the ingredients used in the meals; and local communities benefit from the employment opportunities provided by the programme - over 72,000 cooks have been trained and hired as part of the Nigerian programme.
Under the guidance of the Vice President's office with technical support from
Imperial College's Partnership for Child Development, the programme is currently working with 22 state governments to provide meals in over 50.000 schools. The target is for a fully national programme covering all 36 states by the end of 2018.
Speaking from a special event in Rome convened by the World Food Programme to mark Africa School Meals Day,
Dr Lesley Drake, PCD's Executive Director, and lead editor of the
Global School Feeding Sourcebook highlighted the impact that investments into HGSF can have on communities;
"The evidence shows that when implemented effectively HGSF is beneficial to school children, farmers and the community as a whole. School feeding supports the overall development of school children, increasing both their educational and health outcomes. By procuring food from local farmers they act as effective investments into rural economies, boosting agricultural production and incomes.
These interventions have been shown to have the greatest impact on those most at need, acting as a social safety net to ensure that no child is left behind. "
With millions of more children set to benefit from his programme in the coming months, it is safe to say there will be a lot of Nigerians celebrating this year's African Day for School Feeding.
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Home Grown School Feeding