Ghana is one of the most successful countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region in combating hunger and malnourishment. The proportion of undernourished people went from 23.5% in 1996 to 2.9% in 2013, allowing them to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) target for halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger.

In northern Ghana, 63% of the population lives in extreme poverty, and most rely on crop production. Most of the service and industrial industries are in the south, where poverty is less prevalent.

School feeding helps keep malnutrition low: every day, 368 million children around the world eat a meal at school. The World Food Programme (WFP) provides monthly rations to families who send their daughters to school, and they provide scholarships for secondary school to those who complete the program with an 85% attendance rate.

Over 1.7 million children every day are fed through the Ghana School Feeding Program. The Partnership for Child Development (PCD) is collaborating with the government to link nutrition with school meals and community training. One way the PCD is developing nutritious school meals is through the use of an online meal planner.

The web-based planner allows the user to create and add the costs from local ingredients. It links prices from local markets and displays the total cost of each meal. Only 12.3% of the population has access to the Internet, so for those who do not have access, the PCD developed an offline meal planner.

“By coupling high-tech digital resources such as the meals planner with low-tech engagement, integrated school feeding and health programs are vital if governments are to tackle the malnutrition crisis facing the next generation,” said Dr. Lesley Drake, executive director of PCD.

PCD is also combating malnutrition in Ghana through community meetings and 400 community-based champions of health and nutrition in order to convey the importance of proper nutrition and hygiene.

Feed the Future is fighting for food security in Ghana by focusing on rice, corn and soybean production to help farmers where poverty is most prevalent. The agricultural industry needs more support in order to do more research for crop-yielding and improve irrigation infrastructure.

USAID is committed to sustaining agricultural productivity by managing natural resources. Feed the Future and USAID activities support Ghana’s goals of reducing poverty and increasing food security.

Malnutrition in Ghana is declining due to programs like the online meal planner and the work of organizations like Feed the Future and USAID. Undernourishment and hunger continue to decline, but since 2007, the prevalence of underweight children under the age of five in Ghana has only dropped 0.5% after declining 11.8% between 1997 to 2007. Today, 13.9% of children under five in Ghana are underweight.

Donald Gering

Sources: HGSF, Impatient Optimist, Knoema, Social Progress Imperative, UNDP, USAID WFP 1, WFP 2
Photo: Modern Ghana

Virtual Meal PlannerFeeding hungry children is one matter. Feeding hungry children nutritious meals, however, is an important aspect of ending hunger. About 360 million children sit down to a school meal every day. For some, this could be their only meal for the day.

Knowing this, countries such as Ghana have taken steps to improve school meals. Ghana School Feeding Programme provides free school meals to over 1.7 million children every school day. Additionally, Partnership for Child Development and Dubai Cares are working with the government to improve the nutrition of school meals.

Partnership for Child Development has created a virtual meal planner. The meal planner can be accessed both online and offline in order to be helpful to more people. This meal planner could allow school cafeteria workers to create menus with local ingredients. Also, the virtual meal planner includes local prices of ingredients. Thus, users can plan the cost of each meal.

In order to combat child malnutrition, the meal planner includes virtual gingerbread children graphics that show the amount of daily nutrients and vitamins the meal offers. The gingerbread measurements are based off of recommendations by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. Additionally, the meal planner uses “handy measures.” This means that ordinary utensils, like spoons and buckets, have been calibrated to international measuring units. School cafeteria workers can accurately measure different components of meals without buying expensive kitchen utensils.

Schools can learn about healthy eating, and local farmers can learn what foods are nutritionally beneficial to grow for schools. The virtual meal planner can be used by many people in the community in order to boost the nutritional values of meals.

As a result, Ghana is leading the way in combating malnutrition. This program was trialed in Ghana in 2014, and is still in use today. Other countries around the world could also combat child malnutrition with this easy-to-use program.

More and more children are going to school, and more and more children get their one daily meal from free school lunches. By improving the nutrition of school lunches, we could greatly impact the health of a great number children.

– Ella Cady


Sources: HGSF, Impatient Optimists, ModernGhana World Food Programme

Photo: Adumasa