In an area hit hard by drought and high food prices, the children of Tanzanian Esilelai community were going hungry. The teachers and community leaders decided to implement what governments and NGOs are advocating for – a school lunch program – and were able to do so because of generous donor dollars.
Esilelai Nursery School became an Asante Africa Foundation partner school in 2008 and is an excellent example of successful donor collaborations put to work. This small nursery school originated under a baobab tree. Small children eager to learn gathered to hear stories, learn to write, and be engaged in their Maasai community. Thanks to the Maasai Wanderings Safari Company, it developed into a well-run school with structured facilities, classrooms, and play structures for the young children. Last year, 2009, you read about the toilet and sanitation facilities that were added through our efforts.
This year we are excited to tell you about the “school lunch” program because of new kitchen facilities. This year, a donor who had visited Tanzania came home and raised enough money to build a kitchen facility and enabled the school to start the lunch feeding program. She heard of Esilelai’s needs and saw first-hand an immediate need to provide sustenance for the children who might otherwise not eat the entire day.
Asante Africa Foundation was able to make Esilelai’s dream of providing basic nutrition to its children a reality. The coming together of a committed donor and a dedicated in-country partner made this project a true success. We look forward to building partnerships with individuals and groups who see a need and have a commitment to sharing our mission and vision.
The challenges families face and the value of School Lunches for Children in East Africa:
- More than 46 million children do not attend school and many of them suffer from malnutrition. For the children who do get the opportunity to go to school, short-term hunger seriously affects their ability to learn (UNESCO, 2002).
- The current economic crisis only makes matters worse. Financial woes mean many families are skipping meals and buying less expensive food, which often means less nutritious food. Some parents even resort to selling belongings to feed their children.
- As malnutrition problems increase, women and children are particularly vulnerable (Bennett, 2003).
- School Lunches through School feeding programs (SFPs) are one of the key intervention strategies. They address the basic belief that a full tummy in the morning equals a more fruitful day of learning.
- Programs that provide children with healthy and nutrient-rich food have been shown to improve educational outcomes such as the number of years children spend in school and score performance improvement. A strong link has been drawn between low-achieving children and irregular breakfast and lunch meals. The power of hunger and the need for food overtakes all else, leaving students unfocused and unable to concentrate.
- Governments and NGOs are advocating for a school lunch program to help children learn better.