Article Pandemic derails historic advances in children's access to school meals
One in two schoolchildren, or 388 million children worldwide, were receiving school meals when the pandemic struck, the highest number in history, according to the State of School Feeding Worldwide report. By April 2020, 199 countries had closed their schools and 370 million children were suddenly deprived of what for many was their only nutritious meal of the day.
For governments, the lockdowns shone a spotlight on the critical role played by school feeding in supporting the most vulnerable children and protecting their futures, the report’s authors said, calling for global action to get coverage back to pre-pandemic levels and to expand further, to reach some 73 million vulnerable children who were missing out on meals even before the pandemic.
“School feeding is a game changer - for children, for communities, and for countries,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, “That one meal a day is often the reason hungry children go to school in the first place. It’s also a powerful incentive to make sure they’ll come back after lockdown ends. We need to get these programmes running again - even better than before - to stop COVID from destroying the futures of millions of the world’s most vulnerable children.“
Studies have shown that in the life of a child from a poor family, school meals can have major impact. They stave off hunger, support long-term health and help a child learn and thrive. This is especially true for girls: in places where there is a school meals programme, girls stay in school longer, child marriage rates go down and teen pregnancies decrease.
Reference: United Nations World Food Programme