HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

How the UN Fights Global Poverty2015 represents an important year for the United Nations to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Among the goals that the United Nations has to eradicate poverty and hunger are: to reduce by half the amount of people that make less than $1 per day, accomplish employment and work for everyone including minorities such as women and to reduce by half the amount of people who are suffering from hunger.

The United Nations partners with different organizations and foundations in order to achieve these goals to eradicate poverty.

The Zero Hunger Challenge, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and the UNDP-IKEA Foundation are three movements that the United Nations are partnering with.

1. Zero Hunger Challenge

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives the invitation to every country to work for the future, a future in which every person has adequate nutrition and doesn’t lack food.

The Zero Hunger Challenge involves having no stunted children, 100 percent access to adequate food, sustainable food systems, 100 percent increase in smallholder productivity and zero food waste.

According to this challenge, the investment in agriculture, rural development and equality of opportunity helps to eradicate hunger.

This challenge promotes different strategies and cooperation in order to strive for results that combat hunger.

2. Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement

The principle of this movement is that everyone has the right to good nutrition and food. This movement is supported by donors, people from the government, the United Nations and various others.

This movement seeks to address malnutrition by activities such as implementing programs and collaborations.

The principles of engagement are to be transparent and honest about the impact that collective action has, bring solutions that can be proven and interventions to scale, have a commitment to support the rights and equity of all human beings, resolve conflicts if they arise, be responsible so stakeholders can feel collectively accountable to the commitments, establish priorities and be communicative toward what works and what doesn’t.

3. UNDP-IKEA Foundation

This is a foundation that is benefiting 50,000 women from India.

This foundation has helped 9,000 dairy producers to form a company through provided financial literacy training. Profits also double within a year through the participation of the members.

The United Nations also contributes with other organizations, such as the UNDP and Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos, which brings training to beauty advisors in areas that vary from direct sales to customer training.

It is clear that the United Nations uses different methods to obtain results in the different humanity issues that it focuses on.

While they address different issues such as climate change, terrorism, food production, human rights, health emergencies and many others, global poverty and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is under the Millennium Development Goals that the United Nations has, and partnering with different associations, movements, organizations and foundations has resulted in a way to reach for success in addressing these issues in the year of 2015.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: United Nations 1, United Nations 2, Scaling Up Nutrition
Photo: Flickr