Healthy children key to securing Kenya's future economic growth

Food for Education Chief Operations Officer Wairimu Nyandi.

Hunger is one of the biggest challenges that affects nearly 90 per cent of children on the African continent.

Due to food insecurity and a persistently high cost of living, the majority of families in low-income communities struggle to provide nutritious meals for their children.

Only 13 per cent of children who receive regular school meals in the world are in Africa.

The short and long-term effects of hungry and undernourished children are high. In Kenya, one in every four children under five is stunted and 43 per cent of the country’s population, which consists of primary school-age children, is at risk of being left behind because they are unable to effectively learn and reach their full potential.

Every child represents an opportunity to create a better world tomorrow and therefore we must put them first, ensuring that their bodies and minds are nourished. 

The investments we make now will make a lifetime of difference for children and consequently advance Africa's prosperity goals. 

Over the past 12 years, Food for Education has been "feeding the future" – reaching underserved children in public primary schools across Kenya’s urban, semi-urban and rural areas.

Founded by nutritionist Wawira Njiru, the organisation’s solution is simple - a daily, nutritious, affordable school meal sourced from local farmers. Since its inception, the school feeding programme has served over 38 million meals across five counties.

Beyond the direct benefit of addressing hunger, the initiative bolsters local economies through job creation, particularly targeting women and youth, and supporting local agriculture across multiple counties.

This comprehensive approach not only enhances educational outcomes and stimulates economic growth but also empowers communities by breaking the cycle of poverty and underscoring the transformative power of integrating nutrition with education, thereby investing in a brighter, sustainable future for generations to come.

The programme takes on an integrated school feeding approach to reach children. Its model focuses on five core components - local sourcing, central cooking, smart distribution, nutrition and smart technology.

Working with over 100,000 local smallholder farmers across Kenya, Food for Education sources fresh, nutritious ingredients to use.

In addition, it leverages economies of scale to freshly cook all meals at central kitchens designed by the organisation.

Communities that Food for Education serves are seeing the impact of the programme. There are 3,000 jobs created already and for teachers, they see up to 20 per cent increase in school enrolment rates.

As a result, Food for Education has strong backing from parents and the government toward creating a sustainable model.

Parents willingly contribute for the children’s meals and the organisation has built three government partnerships towards scaling and mainstreaming school feeding.

Aiming to serve a million children per day by 2027, the organisation is creating a blueprint school feeding model of excellence for scale and replication across Africa.

It is Africa’s true homegrown pathway to achieving Africa Union's Agenda 2063, which looks at school feeding as an opportunity to promote education and prevent the high rates of school dropouts due to hunger.