In a joint statement, five UN agencies pledged to support the School Meals Alliance, a grouping of more than 60 countries led by France and Finland whose vision is to give every child in need the opportunity to have a meal by 2030. get a nutritious meal at school.
More than 150 million children worldwide miss meals and basic health and nutrition services.
The five United Nations agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP), UNICEF, the World Health Organization and UNESCO – expressed their strong support for the international coalition, which aims to rapidly improve nutrition, health and education for school-aged children around the world.
“School health and nutrition programs are effective interventions to support the growth and development of schoolchildren and adolescents,” the agency heads said in their joint statement, adding that such programs could help fight child poverty, hunger and malnutrition across all countries. its shapes.
It “brings children to school and supports children’s learning and long-term health and well-being”, and can help achieve at least seven of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread disruption to schools and education around the world, and millions of children were unable to get their school meals or access health services such as deworming, vaccination and psychosocial support.
In a statement, WFP Director David Beasley said: “The School Meals Alliance has the potential to help countries recover from the COVID-19 crisis, and school food programs can bring children back to school, repair the damage to their education, create local jobs. and ensure that smallholder farmers can earn a sustainable income to feed their families. We are proud to support the work of the Vital Alliance.”
The Alliance is also committed to “smart” school meal programs that combine regular school meals with complementary health and nutrition interventions for children’s growth and learning. And the benefit of this alliance is not just limited to school children. The heads of the five agencies have indicated that school lunches could serve as “stopping points” for transforming the food system.
Locally grown food can be used wherever possible, supporting national and local markets and food systems, improving opportunities for smallholder farmers and local restaurant businesses, many of which are run by women.
Each of the agencies will bring a specific set of expertise to the alliance. More than 50 partners, including NGOs, civil society, foundations and other organisations, also said they would provide support.
The coalition will work to restore school meals and other health and nutrition programs that existed before the pandemic, expand them to reach 73 million children who have not benefited from pre-pandemic programs, and increase their quality in part by setting standards and linking these to local production where possible.
By demonstrating their support, the leaders of the five UN agencies have committed to working with governments to achieve the Alliance’s goals, providing technical and operational support as needed, and advocating for funding. and helping to collect better data on the impact of school health and nutrition programs.