I’m very optimistic about the prospects of funding school meals through harnessing local resources. It requires truthfulness, community cohesion and innovation. Communities hold the power to solve their greatest challenges. -Alfred Adjabeng
Over the last three years, since 2013, I have developed special interest in school feeding and I have spent these years in engaging communities to find sustainable solutions to the challenge of feeding students in schools. I have read extensively about researches that focus on providing alternative solutions to government-funded school feeding. I also appreciate to an extent some existing school feeding solutions ranging from the World Food Programme’s, Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) to Ghana’s National School Feeding programme. They all hold some prospects and can achieve more, I believe, if built on communities’ capacity and resilience to solve their own challenges with local resources. This to me is key to developing, and implementing any self-sustaining school feeding policy alternative.
There is absolutely no need to engage in a back and forth argument on whether school feeding is important to improving access to both education and nutrition. There is enough scientific evidence that relates the frequency of school attendance or enrollment to school feeding in most underdeveloped communities and the role good nutrition plays in the mental development of children in schools. There is no efficient transfer of knowledge ‘on a hungry stomach’. Children in schools need energy to grow healthy, learn and aspire. If you have ever gone to school hungry and with no option than to study on a hungry stomach, it will be easier for you to appreciate the importance of school feeding in under-resourced or less developed communities.
The Millennium Development Goals came to an end in 2015 giving way to a more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. The global goals aim at transforming our world by 2030 and the conversation about zero tolerance to hunger has been deepened and given more attention. This has given more focus and weight to global and national interventions aimed at ensuring that hunger is eliminated in our lifetime. It is in this light that supporting school feeding must be given a critical look to ensure that is works effectively. There has been a lot of concern raised across the globe for government to increase support to funding school meals.
I have some lessons to share on supporting secondary school meals. I began this article laying emphasis on how communities’ resources can be harnessed to develop self-sustaining intervention that addresses communities’ greatest challenges. Community cohesion has always been a well proven conceptual model for practical sustainable development. School Farms Program’s works on this model.
School Farms Program is an initiative of Reach Out to Future Leaders Movement, a youth-led community-development-based organization that creates opportunities for young people to engage for community development. School Farms Program is a rural community-based school feeding support program that empowers local community schools to grow their own food whilst creating a space to help students gain practical skills and explore opportunities in Agriculture.
School Farms Program recognizes the link between education, nutrition and skill building and is employing community-based solutions to improve access to all. Rather than relying on only government’s subvention like school feeding grants, the School Farms Program partners with schools and local institutions to develop community-driven farms that offer experiential learning and technical training opportunities to youth and also ensure constant food supply that will keep schools open and able to provide nutritious meals throughout the school year. Communities as poor as you may classify them hold some key resources capable of ensuring that ideas are self-sustaining. Reach Out to Future Leaders Movement, the organization behind School Farms Program, creates a space for community dialogue where even every necessary and available resource of a community is tapped into ensuring that the program receives the energy it needs to be successful. The School Farms Program collaborates with schools and local institutions to develop community-driven farms that offer experiential learning and technical training opportunities to youth while also ensuring consistent food supply that will keep schools open and able to provide nutritious meals throughout the school year.
The program’s main objectives are to; reduce the feeding budget of the schools we work with, increase the nutritional value of the food served to students and equip students with practical agriculture skills for food security. Five (5) acres of land were cultivated and 70% of the yield was used to feed the students. 30% of the yield was sold to an identified market and proceeds went into a fund. 20% of this fund was used to cultivate the next farming season and 10% was paid to the School Farms Program secretariat for the project’s continuous management. The program also partners local government institution like, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture that provides free technical advice in order to help increase yield and access to quality seeds. The community provides land where schools do not have land and hard labor as part of their communal service. By harnessing these resources from the community we have achieve a 25% reduction in the feeding budget of the schools we work with. If the goal of the program is reducing the feeding budget by 100%, we only have to work together to increase our one-time investment into these farms, and also increase to a 100% the monitoring and evaluation capacity.
I believe by reducing feeding budget of these schools to 0% then can we achieve ZeroHunger in these schools. We must work to ensure no child studies on a hungry stomach.-Alfred Adjabeng
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