In May, the U.N. World Food Program’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) launched a program in collaboration with the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) and Table for Two (TFT) to help alleviate extreme poverty in Zanzibar. HGSF uses vegetables, fruit, and grain grown by local farmers to provide school meals to 5,000 children, thus nourishing farmer and child alike.
In Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region within Tanzania, nearly 49 percent of the population falls below the poverty line. According to HGSF, malnutrition is extremely common in the program’s target regions in the north. Iain Gardiner, PCD’s East Africa Senior Program Manager explained that “this program [HGSF] is the first of its kind for Zanzibar and marks the government’s awareness on the value of school meals for society as a whole.”
Gardiner detailed the impact this program could have on Zanzibar’s rural economies: “Not only will children be well fed in school, but jobs will be created for farmers and other community members.” Providing meals for children can be vital to keeping kids, especially girls, in school in a region where, according to HGSF, only 66 percent of primary school age children graduate elementary school. HGSF explains that children who are well fed experience increased concentration and are thus more likely to stay in school. As children stay in school longer, they will build the skills and knowledge they need to contribute to and strengthen their local economies.
HGSF ultimately aims to “develop local agriculture and nourish young minds.” They hope that by engraining this program within national policy, the government can identify areas of need and provide nutritious meals to school children in an effort to reduce poverty.