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School Feeding Program in RwandaRwanda is a small, densely populated country in Africa, located just south of the equator. Though the country has made great strides in poverty reduction since the 1994 genocide, 55% of the population still lived in poverty in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic halted a period of economic boom and, as a result, the World Bank expects poverty to rise by more than 5% in 2021. International aid and development programs in Rwanda are more important than ever, especially when it comes to providing reliable, nutritious food sources. Chronic malnutrition affects more than a third of Rwandan children younger than 5 and the World Food Programme (WFP) considers nearly 20% of Rwandans food insecure. One key initiative aiming to eradicate malnutrition in Rwanda is the WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda.

History of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

The WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding initiative works with local governments, farmers and schools to provide nutritious, diverse daily meals for students and enrich local economies. These Home Grown School Feeding programs currently operate in 46 countries with each program tailored to the needs of local people.

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda began in 2016, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mastercard. The program serves daily warm meals to more than 85,000 learners in 104 primary schools. The program benefits both students and their families in several major ways.

5 Benefits of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

  1. Improves Nutrition. Agriculture is the basis of Rwanda’s economy, but desertification, drought and other problems are decreasing harvests. As a result, many families struggle to grow enough food to feed themselves. The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda provides students with meals of either maize, beans or hot porridge. The school-provided meal is often the only regular, nutritious meal available to many students.
  2. Improves Hygiene. Along with kitchens and ingredients, the WFP also supplies schools in Rwanda with materials to teach basic nutrition and hygiene. One strategy includes installing rainwater collection tanks and connecting them to handwashing stations. Additionally, WFP workers build or renovate bathrooms at each school. Connecting the school to a reliable water supply also benefits the local community by decreasing the distance villagers travel to access water. School handwashing stations are also open to the community, improving health and hygiene for everyone.
  3. Improves Focus, Literacy and School Attendance. According to Edith Heines, WFP country director for Rwanda, “a daily school meal is a very strong incentive for parents to send their children to school.” In primary schools where the WFP implemented the Home Grown School Feeding Program, attendance has increased to 92%. With the implementation of the program, students report increased alertness in class and better grades and performance. One child from Southern Rwanda, Donat, told the WFP that before his school provided lunch, he was often so hungry that he did not want to return to school after going home at lunchtime. Now that his school provides lunch, he looks forward to class each day. Literacy rates have also improved dramatically at schools where the program operates and the WFP reports that student reading comprehension has increased from less than 50% to 78%.
  4. Teaches Gardening and Cooking Skills. The WFP develops a kitchen garden at every school involved in the Home Grown School Feeding program. Children participate in growing and caring for crops, learning valuable gardening skills that they can take home to their parents. Children are also instructed in meal preparation and in proper hygiene.
  5. Diversifying Crops at Home. Students also receive seedlings in order to provide food at home and to diversify the crops grown in food-insecure areas. Crop diversification can help improve soil fertility and crop yields. Sending seedlings home also promotes parent and community involvement in the program, ensuring the program’s long-term stability.

Looking Ahead

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda has improved the quality of life for many children living in poverty as well as their families. By fighting to end hunger in food-insecure areas of Rwanda, the WFP has improved hygiene, nutrition, school attendance, literacy, crop diversity and more. The continuation of the program in Rwanda and in other countries around the world will enable further progress in the fight against global poverty.

Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Wasting-Food-in-America
Each year, industrialized countries like the U.S. waste just about as much food as the total net amount of food that is produced in sub-Saharan Africa. That is 222 million tons wasted in comparison to 230 million produced.

In 2009, the amount of food wasted was equal to more than 50 percent of cereal crops produced globally, which is 2.3 billion tons of food.

The United States Department of Agriculture began its U.S. Food Waste Challenge in June of 2013. Along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, their goal was to acquire 1,000 supporters by 2020.

Some of the goals are to minimize food wasted in school meal programs, find ways to reuse food that is rejected from the market due to “un-sellability”, estimate the amount of food waste in the U.S. each year, and discover new technologies that decrease that amount.

The initiative is much needed, considering that the average American consumer throws away ten times the quantity of food that someone in Southeast Asia does. That number has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s.

On average, American wastes about 40 percent of all food. Waste takes place on farms, in grocery stores, in homes, and in landfills. That is equivalent to 20 pounds per person, $165 billion, and one fourth of all freshwater per year.

Studies show that if America reduced food waste by just 15 percent, the amount of food saved could feed more than 25 million people per year.

Fresh water is a precious resource all over the world, and 80 percent of it is used to produce food in the U.S. Food production also uses half of the country’s land and ten percent of the nation’s total energy budget.

Food that decays in landfills now makes up nearly 25 percent of total U.S. methane emissions.

Yolanda Soto is looking to dramatically reduce the amount of food wasted in America by saving 35-40 million pounds of produce every year. She does this by collecting food rejected at the U.S.- Mexican border and shipping it to needy families in the U.S. and Mexico.

More than 50 percent of food grown in Mexico and imported to the U.S. is inspected and rejected at the border near Nogales, Arizona. Each trailer carries about $70,000 worth of food.

Soto started Borderlands Food Bank in the 1990s after being shocked at how much edible produce is tossed despite the high percentage of people plagued by hunger.

The organization’s focus is “to provide fresh, nutritious produce to people in need, advocate for the hungry, and help eradicate malnutrition and hunger.”

Beginning with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, imported fruits and vegetables undergo inspection by around 40 different government agencies. Produce is taken out of commerce if it does not meet the USDA’s standards for quality and size.

“It’s perfectly good,” says Soto about the produce she redistributes, “but because it had some scarring, they couldn’t sell it. Who’s going to buy it?”

The truth is, American’s have this idea that in order to taste good, food has to look perfect. Anything less than perfect is rejected.

– Lillian Sickler

 

Sources: NPR, The Huffington Post Border Lands Food Bank National Resources Defense Council World Food Day U.S. Environmental Protection Agency USDA
Photo: Takepart

boots_made_for_walking
Living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world ideally means full-access to core tenants of liberty – democracy and freedom. Indeed, American citizens exercise their freedom in a multitude of manners, quite notably exercising their freedom to consume.

Women, in particular, dole out about $370 per year, adding up to approximately $25,000 spent on footwear in a lifetime. Additionally, the average woman owns up to 469 pairs of shoes within a 67 year period, averaging about seven pairs per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $146 is an adequate budget in order to feed a family of four a healthy diet per week. Thus, the amount of money that a women, on average, spends a year on shoes is enough to feed a family of four for almost three weeks. Furthermore, the amount of money a woman invests in footwear over the course of her lifetime could have sustained a family of four for 171 weeks, or over three years.

The amount of money that Western women spend on shoes could also have been used to purchase a first-hand car or invested in higher-education. A study by Mintel indicates that men surprisingly spend more money on shoes than women do. Why is this? Although women may purchase more shoes, Colin Chapman of The Guardian decrees that “[…] men’s fashion items are often investments — a good suit, a great overcoat, and a decent pair of shoes have never been cheap to buy, but were built to last season upon season.” Therefore, this statistic does not imply that men buy more than women, but that perhaps men are more concerned with higher-priced durability as opposed to quantity.

Collectively, Americans annually spend about $100 billion on shoes, jewelry, and watches, while $99 billion is allocated towards obtaining a higher education. Furthermore, Westerners annually allocate $100 billion toward purchasing shoes, while the United States designates $50 billion for foreign aid – half of the amount that people spend on footwear yearly.

Perhaps Western spending tactics on footwear gives a glimpse into the massive global wealth inequality that is very much extant in modern times. While 50% of the world survives on less than $2.50 a day to garner food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance, Westerners collectively spend billions of dollars on luxuries such as footwear and accessories.

Phoebe Pradham

Sources: World Bank, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, The Guardian, Glamour, USA Today, Sodahead, TIME
Photo: Web Stock Pro