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School Lunch Programs

According to the World Food Programme, 66 million school children are hungry (World Food Programme, 2009).  Our School Lunch Program addresses malnutrition in primary school-aged children, while also addressing the problem of low school attendance by providing an additional incentive for children to attend school. It should also be noted that feeding children in school will increase their ability to focus and to gain the most out of all other educational programs; therefore, this particular program has the power to render others more effective (Miller Del Rosso, 1999).

Program Overview:

The purpose of the school lunch program is to establish a sustainable, secure, and nutritious source of food for the provision of school children during the day. While infrastructure for distribution of pre-prepared, industrially fortified meals might exist in urban areas, it would be difficult to establish a system for distribution to rural schools.

In rural areas, the program will require no pre-processed foods to be imported from outside of each village; ingredients for all lunches will be grown in school gardens, and prepared by locally hired cooks. The lunches will provide around 800 calories per day to younger children (4-6 years old), and 900-1000 calories per day to older children (7-18 years old). (Calorie Requirements, 2003) Meals will be fortified with iron and Vitamin A, as well as designed to provide children with Calcium, Iodine, Folic Acid, Sodium, and Potassium, along with all of the essential amino acids, Vitamins C, E, and K, and several B vitamins.

Crowded urban schools may have difficulty sustaining themselves on produce from urban agriculture. These schools will be provided with the funds necessary to hire cooks and buy ingredients for well-balanced meals from local markets. What limited space schools can allocate for rooftop or garden agriculture will be used to grow vegetables and fruits that will supplement their meals with any missing micronutrients.

To aid students in severe states of undernutrition, medical relief will be provided in the form of a peanut-based paste such as Plumpy’nut, a revolutionary calorie and micronutrient supplement used in disaster relief. Although the use of Plumpy’nut itself is restricted by Nutriset, the company that owns it, many non-copyrighted versions have been invented that can be used instead. (Rice, 2010)


The program will begin with teacher nutritional training within the cluster school system; the training should provide teachers with adequate knowledge to evaluate their cultural cuisine for protein, carbohydrate, and micronutrient content. Once the teacher has designed an approximate menu for the class that is nutritionally balanced and economically feasible, he or she will submit a proposal for supplies to the School Lunch Program. The appropriate seeds and gardening materials will then be sent to the teacher’s school.

The Meals:

Meals that show promise but require additional elements such as an extra source of protein can be supplemented with a variety of especially nutritious crops that we recommend: soy beans, pink beans, and peanuts. We also recommend that schools grow or otherwise obtain a variety of fruits, to be cut and served in fruit cups, since different types of fruit contain varying amounts of micronutrients. Spinach, a dark green leafy vegetable containing high levels of calcium,  iodine, and other micronutrients, and potatoes, also containing high iodine levels, are highly recommended as vegetables. (Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH, 2009)


Soybeans contain all of the essential amino acids; they can be ground into soy flour, which can be mixed with water and made into soy milk, or used as a moistening, protein-rich substitute for eggs in baked goods. While cow’s milk is considered an invaluable part of school lunches in the U.S., significant quantities of animal milk may be difficult to come by in the impoverished areas we plan to aid. Rather than importing expensive and resource-hungry animals into communities that may not be prepared to raise them, the program will promote the cultivation of soybeans and the consumption of soy milk as an almost* nutritionally equivalent alternative to drinking animal milk. (Henkel, 2000)

Soybeans are legumes, which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and replenish the soil they grow in. Soybeans also flourish in warm climates.

*Calcium levels in soy milk are much lower, but calcium can be obtained through the other foods listed below.


We will recommend and distribute pink beans, a small, pink, and roundish variety of common bean,as a well-balanced source of micronutrients, protein, and calories. One cup of pink beans contains 252 calories in the form of 15.31 grams ofprotein, 47.17 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.83 grams of fat. A cup also contains 9.0 grams of fiber, 88 milligrams of calcium, 8.39 milligrams of iron, and 859 milligrams of potassium, (Diet Bites) as well as relatively high amounts of magnesium and phosphorus. The calcium is especially important here, since we have recommended soy milk as a substitute for animal milk.

Like most common beans, pink beans can be dried and stored for a long time. This is particularly advantageous for our plan, which may require seed storage and distribution. Some pink bean varieties, such as O’dham and Sedona pink beans, grow naturally in the Arizona desert, making them ideal for the hot, dry climates in many of the regions that require our assistance. (Ausbrooks, 2010)


Peanuts are a healthy and nutritious snack food; a cup of them contains 87.8 milligrams of calcium, 2.2 milligrams of iron, 1045 milligrams of potassium, 4.7 milligrams of zinc, high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, and high levels of Vitamins C and E, Pantothenic Acid, and several of the B vitamins. (Self Nutrition Data)

There are several varieties of peanuts, including the Spanish peanut, which is cultivated in South Africa on large scales. This variety and others – the Runner, Valencia, and Virginia peanut (Rampur, 2010) – can be sent to schools across a wide range of regions and climes according to where each variety grows best. Turning the peanuts into peanut butter can extend their shelf life. Peanuts can also be used in cooking and as a snack food to be eaten with the main course at lunch.

If traditional recipes prove too hard to prepare or require more resources than are readily available, we can teach simple but nutritious recipes such as sandwiches, and give the appropriate startup materials and funding so they can grow the necessary ingredients.


Through this program, we wish to address both caloric and micronutrient deficiencies, especially for iron and vitamin A.  (Miller del Rosso, 1999 pg 8). Providing food during school alleviates hunger before and during classes, also helps improve concentration and achievement among children (Miller Del Rosso, 1999). This improved achievement, paired with the increase in attendance caused by lunch programs, will allow children to become more successful in their later lives, increasing their ability to be economically viable citizens and to contribute positively to the wealth of their communities. This increase in community wealth is strongly correlated to the decrease in hunger in the community, as has been found by innumerable studies. "At village level, the close and mutual causal connections at individual and household level between better health, better education, higher earning power, and poverty reduction are manifest; the total impact of education plus land, or education plus bullock-power, in reducing poverty impact considerably exceeds the sum of the individual impacts, in data for ten Indian villages over eight years [Singh and Hazell 1993]”. 

School lunch programs in developing countries, as studied by the Partnership for Child Development, provide between one-third and one-half of the recommended daily allowance for energy and protein for the school-age group targeted by the program (Miller del Rosso, 1999). The average child in primary school aged 4-8, requires 1692 calories per day; the average child in primary school aged 9-13, requires 2175 calories (Leathers & Foster, 2009, 33). Our program will be implemented in any existing schools in areas where children are consuming less than 1500 calories per day, prioritizing the most malnourished areas. 

Costs of implementation:

Based on existing school lunch programs, it costs anywhere from $19.25 to $208.59 to provide 1000 calories to one student each day, for 365 days/year in 1989 USD, with a mean program cost has been US $88.74 and the median was $81.46 per year (Miller del Rosso, 1999, pg 6). The WFP calculates that US $3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school children.

Our program promises to be slightly more expensive, especially for rural schools where we wish to put in the resources necessary to build a sustainable source of food for each school. Initial expenses will include the cost of seeds and starting materials for the school gardens, and continuing costs of the program will be from the cooks’ wages. The costs of urban schools' lunch programs should be comparable to those of existing programs.

Source: 2006, retrieved 2010,

Source: 2008, retrieved 2010,

The World Food Programme’s School lunch programs currently feed about 22 million in 60 countries (WFP, 2009). We can also work with UNESCO and IFPRI, as well as some of the many national and local governments which are already working towards providing school meals to all children.

In the short term, this plan will feed primary-aged children. We expect to be able to implement the plan within the next five years, depending upon the monetary support that we receive and the degree to which existing programs are willing to adjust their practices. In the long term, this program will increase the number of literate people, raise people out of poverty, and help them to find their own locally based solutions to poverty and hunger. 

A variation of this plan will be implemented during times of protracted crises (defined to be 8 years by the FAO) and during disaster relief efforts in refugee camps or other areas with a large number of displaced persons. The WFP will administer the an expanded and more widespread version of the Food For Education Program that is already in place in schools in these situations. This plan would include both school lunches and take-home rations. One study conducted in Uganda has shown that this method is extremely effective in reducing malnutrition in children, especially in children between the ages of 5-36 months (WFP and FAO, 2010).

Works cited: 

International Food Policy Research Center. Global Hunger Index - 2010: The Challenge of Hunger: Focus on the Crisis of Child Malnutrition. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Center, 2010. 

Leathers, H., & Foster, P. (2009). The world food problem: toward ending undernutrition in the third world. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.

Miller Del Rosso, J. (June 1999). School Feeding Programs: Improving Effectiveness and Increasing the Benefit to Education. Partnership for Child Development. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from

World Food Programme. (2009). Purchase for progress – connecting farmers to markets. Retrieved November 29, 2010, from

World Food Programme. (2009). Two minutes to learn about: school meals. Retrieved November 13, 2010, from

WFP and FAO. (2010). The state of food insecurity in the world. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from

(2003). Calorie Requirements. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from

Ausbrooks, C. (2010). What is a Pink Bean? Retrieved November 25, 2010, from

Diet Bites. Beans - Bean Calories & Nutritional Information on Varieties of Beans. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from

Henkel, John. (2000) Soy: Health Claims for Soy Protein, Questions about other Components. FDA Consumer. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from;col1

Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. (2009) Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from

Rampur, Stephen. (2010) Growing Peanuts: How do Peanuts Grow?. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from

Rice, Andrew. (2010) The Peanut Solution. The New York Times Magazine, September 5, 2010, MM36. Retrieved November 27, 2010 from

Self Nutrition Data. (2009). Peanuts, all types, oil-roasted, with salt. Retrieved November 26, 2010, from