Kenyan Schoolchildren Have Something to Smile About

Africa’s biggest ever school food program is here.

Aug 29, 2023
Kenyan Schoolchildren Have Something to Smile About | Africa’s biggest ever school food program is here.

Child hunger is a critical global challenge, which is why news of programs in which organizations and governments implement policy changes to feed more children, is so welcome. One such initiative to combat food insecurity is happening right now in Kenya, considered one of the world’s “hunger hotspots” according to the World Food Programme.

This new program launching in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, will offer a heavily subsidized or free nutritious lunch to elementary school pupils from low-income families in public schools to boost learning and enrolment. This is vital. Local paper, The Star, reveals that one in four children in Nairobi misses school due to a lack of food.

Announcing the program this summer, Kenyan Education Cabinet Secretary, Ezekiel Machogu, noted that this feeding initiative will enable disadvantaged children to continue studying uninterrupted, boosting the lives of children from slums and informal settlements, as reported on KBC.

Africa’s biggest ever school meals program
The BBC details that this new scheme will be the largest such program on the African continent to date. The initial phase, which is the fruit of a collaboration between Nairobi Country and Kenyan Charity Food 4 Education, will provide hot lunches and fruit to Nairobi children from 225 elementary schools and Early Childhood Development centers daily.

Serving some of the lunches to local children at the program’s recent August launch, this East African nation’s president, William Ruto, emphasized his goal of eliminating the indignity of hunger in Kenya at the recent launch. He also discussed his commitment to ensuring its successful implementation. 

A Food 4 Education spokesperson tells the BBC that “We believe that no child should go to school on a hungry stomach… . We are excited to expand our scope and serve an additional 250,000 meals every day to Kenyan children that will ensure they are able to go to school and stay in school.”

Also underlining the basic need for food as a condition for learning, The Guardian reports on how the county executive of Nairobi city county, Suzanne Silantoi, found that most schoolchildren in the city go without lunch, which damages their ability to learn, in conversations with teachers and parents: “We recognise the critical link between nutrition and learning, and that is why the county has institutionalised the school feeding programme. We expect improvement in attendance and performance in public schools,” she says. 

Indeed, initial trial schemes already piloted have shown amazing improvements in terms of school attendance, the Kenyan edition of Nation shares.

Our video includes a moving account from Nairobi’s governor, Sakaja Arthur Johnson, who recalls schoolchildren responding to his question asking them what they needed, by telling him that they needed food. He had expected them to ask for footballs or a school bus. “When a child asks for food, they really need it,” he says. As a parent, this worrying response drove his subsequent long-term quest to bring food to children experiencing food insecurity

Tech-led initiatives are built in
The infrastructure has been put in place to ensure the program’s success thanks to some tech-led help. The BBC reports, for example, that ten new kitchens employing 3,500 people, will help provide the daily lunches. The Guardian explains that these kitchens will be powered by green energy using steam gas technology, and will also use eco-briquettes.

Additionally, each child will be given a wristband, Tap2Eat, linked to a virtual wallet that parents can prepay their share of the meal into. This tech-led partnership with parents, it is hoped, will foster the feeling in them that they are successfully feeding their kids, and also enable them to track whether their children are attending school. 

A program with national ambitions
While the program is being rolled out in the Kenyan capital, it is hoped that it will eventually reach four million school children, up from the current total of just over one and a half million currently being supported nationwide, details the Guardian. 

This is vital, because, as the Save The Children charity reveals, 36 percent of Kenyans live in poverty, while 26 percent of children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition and 21 percent of school-age children don’t attend school.

Public support for the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s what one talkback to our video had to say: “This is what we need to see in Kenya, leaders working together for the good of Kenya.”

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.