School Feeding Programmes in Kenya: Benefits and Challenges

By Anthony M. Wanjohi:

School Feeding Programmes (SFPs) have been implemented in Kenya since 1980’s with varying degrees of success. Used primarily to entice the enrollment and retention of rural children and girls, School Feeding Programmes have continued to play an integral part in realizing Kenya’s goal of attaining universal primary education (UNESCO, 2005).

The benefits of School Feeding Programme are far reaching. There is evidence to show that school feeding programmes increase children’s educational achievement so as to improve their potential future productivity and earnings, alleviate short term hunger which improves children’s cognitive functioning and attention span, improves nutritional status of children by providing them calories and nutrients in addition to their regular diet, enhance enrollment in school and better educational outcome. These lead to better health and better resistance to infectious diseases and illnesses that would keep children from attending school (Alderman, Hoddinott & Kinsey, 2006).

Despite the benefits of SFPs, many school going children especially from poor backgrounds are not able to enjoy the fruits of such programmes. And if they do, the very programmes are not sustainable owing to a number of challenges including poverty, managerial issues, food storage factor and poor climatic conditions (Wanjohi, 2010).

Kenya’s school-aged population is among the groups most negatively impacted by climatic and social-economic factors, which contribute not only to high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition but also to school dropout (GoK, 2009). The childhood subjected malnutrition imposes significant economic costs on individuals and nations, and by improving children’s diets and nutrition can have positive effects on their academic performance and behaviors at school as well as their long-term productivity as adults (Jomaa,  McDonnell & Probart, 2011).  Underfeeding has been found to be one of the factors that contribute to delay entry to school and less overall schooling (Alderman, et al., 2006).

While various international organizations such as World Food Program (WFP), UNESCO, UNICEF and World Bank have continued to support School Feeding Programmes in Kenya, there are still evident gaps especially in the schools located in Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASAL) and those in urban informal setup. WFP school feeding programme in Kenya for instance, dedicates 32 USD per child per week (WFP, 2014). However, this is just but a drop in the ocean of food gap in Kenya’s schools. There is need therefore to create sustainable school feeding programmes in the county through government and community support interventions that include but not limited to introduction of school farming projects among other climate change adaptation programmes.

References

Alderman, H., Hoddinott, J., & Kinsey, B. (2006). Long-Term consequences of early childhood malnutrition, Oxford Economic Papers, Volume 58, Issue 3.

Jomaa, L.H., McDonnell, E., & Probart, C. (2011). School Feeding Programmes in Developing Countries: Impacts on Children’s Health and Educational Outcomes. Nutrition Review, 83–98.

GoK (2009). Agricultural Sector Development Strategy, 2009-2020. Nairobi:            Government Press.

UNESCO (2005). Challenges of Implementing Free Primary Education in Kenya. Nairobi. UNESCO.

Wanjohi, A.M. (2010). Factors affecting the sustainability of school feeding programme in Magadi Zone, Kajiado County. Available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1665013

WFP (2014). More than food. Boosting education in Kenya. Available at https://www.wfp.org/photos/gallery/more-food-boosting-education-kenya

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