The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Africa has the highest rising rates of hunger in the world. In Eastern Africa, where Kenya is located, almost a third of the population is said to be undernourished. Additionally, 40 percent of the world’s stunted children live in Africa. Luckily, Food for Education is feeding Kenyan schoolchildren to help solve the problem.
Food for Education
Wawira Njiru founded Food for Education in 2012 to provide nutritious, subsidized meals to children in Kenyan primary schools. When she began, Njiru only fed 25 children from Ruiru Primary School. Now, her organization has provided over 500,000 meals to more than 10,000 children across 11 different primary schools. Food for Education has four head chefs and eight assistant chefs who prepare food. The organization delivers the food to the 11 partner schools by lunchtime. Parents pay $0.15 for the lunches using mobile money, which then credits into a virtual wallet. The wallet links to a smart wristband that students wear that they then use to pay for their meals.
Effects of Hunger on Students
Food for Education is feeding Kenyan schoolchildren and this is important because hunger affects both the physical and mental development of children. Estimates determine that 23 million children go to school without anything to eat in Kenya. Chronic undernutrition impacts one in four children, stunting their growth. Children who are hungry fall behind in classes because they have trouble learning and paying attention. The child may also fall behind in class as a result of missing classes to help their family put food on the table. In addition, they are also more likely to have behavioral problems. All of these challenges may result in the child having to repeat a grade, which contributes to the family’s financial strain. In the long run, it affects the child’s productivity and future economic potential.
There has been a positive impact since Food for Education began its work feeding Kenyan schoolchildren. The organization reports that other than the improved nutrition for the children, there has been an improvement in school attendance, school performance and the transition rates from primary to high school. The U.N. deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed, at a school visit by Food for Education, noted that stunted growth costs Africa $25 billion annually. Therefore, the work that Njiru and her organization does is helping lift people out of poverty.
The Benefit to the Community
Food for Education does not only benefit the student, it also feeds the community around them. For example, the organization utilizes food sourced from local farmers. Njiru also makes an effort to only hire locals. The 35 employees who help her meet her goal are all from the Ruiru community. This is important because it enables the members of that community to earn an income and support themselves.
Food for Education efforts are helping Kenyan children receive an education without worrying about a lack of stable access to food. In fact, Njiru’s contribution has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, she was the first recipient of the Global Citizen Prize, Cisco Youth Leadership Award. Among other things, the award came with a cash prize of $250,000 which has significantly helped boost the organization. She hopes that she can one day scale up from 10,000 meals a day to providing one million meals a day.
– Sophia Wanyonyi