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Publication | 2020

State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020

Key Messages

  • At the beginning of 2020, national school feeding programmes delivered school meals to more children than at any time in human history, making school feeding the most extensive social safety net in the world.

  • One in every two schoolchildren receive school meals every day in at least 161 countries.

  • Between 2013 and 2020, the number of children receiving school meals grew by 36 percent in low-income countries.

  • More than 90 percent of the cost of school feeding programmes now comes from domestic funds.

  • Effective school feeding programmes improve both access to schools and learning.

  • 73 million of the most vulnerable children were still to be reached.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to this decade of global growth in school feeding programmes and has sharpened global resolve to restore access to these vital safety nets as a priority.

  • At the height of the crisis in April 2020, 199 countries had closed their schools and 370 million children were suddenly deprived of what for many was their main meal of the day.

In a post-COVID-19 world, school feeding programmes are even more of a priority investment because they help countries to build back better: creating human capital; supporting national growth; and promoting economic development.

  • Effective programmes help countries to support their children during the 7,000 days leading to adulthood.

  • Efficient programmes yield returns of up to US$9 for every US$1 invested,¬†creating value across multiple sectors, including: education, health and nutrition,¬†social protection and local agriculture. The largest school feeding programmes in the world all rely on locally sourced food, which helps create jobs, make markets more predictable and helps establish lifelong dietary preferences for locally available fresh foods.

The World Food Programme has renewed its commitment to work with governments to ensure that all vulnerable children are supported, and has launched a new ten-year School Feeding Strategy to strengthen its global strategic role in school health and nutrition.

The most immediate priority is to help countries re-establish effective school feeding programmes.