By Tobby Otum
Kenyan school feeding social enterprise, Food for Education, has expanded its school feeding operations to Mombasa County’s public schools, moving closer to its target to feed 100,000 school children every day by the end of this year.
Food for Education’s Mombasa County’s pilot kitchen targets to serve 5,000 lunches daily, and 30,000 in the region by the end of the year. Already, Food for Education delivers 30,000 similar daily servings from its Ruiru and Dagoretti South kitchens, in Nairobi County.
The award-winning Food for Education program works with public schools to ensure children from low-income households in urban and peri-urban areas have access to quality, hygienic and nutritious meals –complementing the Government of Kenya’s school feeding programme in rural and semi-arid areas, and helping reduce the classroom hunger crisis in Kenya.
According to Food for Education’s founder Wawira Njiru, Mombasa stood out for its need for well-balanced, standardized, and healthy school meals. “Mombasa county is prime for this infrastructure, with most schools seeking options of a sustainable school feeding program. Being a densely populated city, the majority of the schools have limited space for kitchens, forcing children to seek alternative means to access meals while in school, while some are forced to stay hungry all day,” she said.
Through its model, Food for Education owns a central mega-kitchen in a select school where meals are prepared. The food is then distributed, using smart logistics and innovative technology. Its Tap2Eat uses the mobile money technology allowing parents to prepay for meals which are distributed to surrounding schools, saving on costs, expanding the reach for low cost nutritious meals.
According to Ms. Wawira, the kitchen will source foods from local small-holder farmers, improving farmer incomes and the viability of local food value chains. “Our ‘home-grown’ strategy fosters increased production and diversification by smallholders, which stimulates the strengthening of local and national food systems and the promotion of better-quality diets,” said Ms. Wawira.
According to a study commissioned by the World Food Program (WFP) and MasterCard Foundation and titled School Feeding Programme Cost Benefit Analysis, free meals are an incentive for parents to enroll their children in school, and improve their attendance throughout the year. Further, school meals help children overcome under-nutrition and poor health, and support local agricultural economies.
Food for Education targets to serve a million school meals per day by 2025, and is working on setting up kitchens in the major counties in Kenya as a key plank of its expansion. It also plans to set up pilot kitchens that will be used to study the different needs of the regions. This will enable it to effectively meet the needs of the different communities and tailor its system as an end-to-end solution for delivering nutritious meals in the near future.
According to the WFP, the annual global investment in school meals amounts to Sh. 7.5 trillion. An estimated 368 million children receive a meal at school every day, as a safety net, in both developing and affluent countries. Further, WFP believes that school meals can contribute directly to the attainment of a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include a contribution to ending Hunger, ensuring Quality Education and promoting Gender Equality and indirectly to ending poverty, ensuring decent work, and reducing inequalities.