“Diversifying the foods we eat, is not only good for our health but will reduce food insecurity.”
Those were the words of the National Coordinator of the Free Quality Education, Lansana Kefala at the launch event of the National School Feeding Menu at the Roman Catholic Primary School in Futa Pejeh, Pujehun districts.
Attended by staff of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, (MBSSE) Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), and Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the occasion coincided with the African day of School Feeding, which is observed the 1st March every year, in recognition of the importance of school feeding programmes in Africa.
It is a 14-day campaign that culminates in the celebration of the International School Meals Day (14th March).
The theme for 2023 is: “Boosting Local Food Procurement Systems and Regional Value Chains: The role of African Continental Free Trade Area for sustained Home-grown School Feeding (HGSF) Programmes and Improved Learning”.
This 8th African Day of School Feeding was aimed at raising the importance of investing in school feeding programme, giving due consideration of backlogs created by the colliding education, food and climate crises, impacting Africa’s children and future generations.
This can bring economic returns for long term and sustainable development, especially in the areas of agriculture, human capital, nutrition, education, and community resilience.
In Sierra Leone, WFP in collaboration with MBSSE and partners observed this day with a series of activities including the launch of the National School Feeding Menu.
This celebration provided an opportunity to showcase the work the government, WFP and partners have been doing around home-grown school feeding.
Developed collaboratively by the National School Feeding Secretariat of the MBSSE, the Directorate of Food and Nutrition (DFN) with support from WFP, the Menu was presented by the Director of DFN, Mrs Aminata Shamit Koroma who emphasized the preparation of meals that consist of at least 3 food groups in safe and hygienic environments.
“The Menu will diversify and standardise the preparation of meals for primary school children in all schools across the country,” said Yvonne Forsén, Country Director.
R.C Primary School is one of over 1,000 schools supported by WFP and MBSSE in Kambia, Pujehun, Bonthe, Kenema and Karene districts. In 2022, 214,279 school children (52 percent girls) received a meal every school day in these districts, contributing to a total of 800,000 across the country.
Also, WFP piloted nutrition-sensitive home-grown school feeding in 17 schools in Kambia and Pujehun districts in 2022 and have already scaled up to another 56 schools. The coming school year will see further expansion.
The HGSF pilot is aimed at moving away from a school feeding model where the programme depends on imported food to a regime where most, if not all, of the food are produced and supplied by local farmers, thereby guaranteeing market for smallholder farmers. This initiative is funded by JICA, USAID and Germany.
Home-grown school feeding is a win-win situation that benefits the various stakeholders.