Promoting Home Grown School Meals for improved performance and health of pupils
Food and nutrition insecurity and a generally low level of education predominate in Malawi: Many Malawian school children usually go to class with an empty stomach. Around 37 per cent of children under five are affected by chronic malnutrition and their growth is stunted. 42.4 per cent of primary school children are vitamin A deficient and 25 per cent of them are anaemic.
Studies estimate that the economic losses caused by chronic under-nutrition among children are around 10 per cent of Malawi’s gross domestic product. Due to a lack of a balanced and nutritious diet, children suffer from concentration deficiencies and often become ill, lowering their attendance rate and leading to a high drop-out rate in schools. As a result, learning outcomes of Malawian primary school pupils are among the lowest in the region.
In order to improve the nutritional status of all pupils and promote healthy diets at schools and beyond, Malawi’s Government has updated its National School Health and Nutrition Strategic Plan and prepared corresponding School Health and Nutrition Guidelines. Within this framework, the Home Grown School Meals approach plays an important role as it aims to encourage a strong level of involvement by schools and communities.
Providing nutritious school meals are a powerful tool to keep children in school. At the same time, it helps boost pupils’ nutritional and health status, enhancing their performance.
The project supports the Malawian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in implementing the National Plan. At 180 primary schools in ten districts, the project promotes the Home Grown School Meals approach and supports the schools and communities in providing nutritious school meals. To enable the schools and communities to provide school meals even after the project ends and improve the nutrition and hygiene practices sustainably. The project focus on two areas:
Focus One: Increasing the availability of high-quality foodstuffs for preparing school meals
The project supports schools and communities to be able to provide a sufficient quantity of quality school meals. Schools are encouraged to prepare meals from at least three out of six different food groups used in Malawi.
In close consultation with the technical services of the districts and zones, seed for protein-rich crops – especially soya, peanuts, beans and chickpeas – and cuttings for manioc and sweet potatoes are provided and cultivated. Improving the nutritional knowledge and the hygiene practices of primary school pupils and community members:
At the school level, the project supported the establishment of various clubs which take place weekly after the lessons. Using a radio programme and the theater for development approach, pupils learn about the importance of good nutrition and hygiene practices in an interactive way. Moreover, volunteer cooks from the community are trained in how to prepare simple, but delicious and nutritious meals. Pupils, teachers and community members then share this knowledge at their homes.
Focus Two: Developing the capacity of stakeholders
At the district level, the project provides financial and technical support to the District Education Manager’s Office to implement the national strategy especially with regard to capacity building and knowledge sharing between zones and districts.