How buckets and digital gingerbread are beating child malnutrition in Ghana

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World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 44 million children under five are either overweight or obese. At the same time in low and middle income countries one in five children are stunted due to the poor diets. Malnutrition’s triple burden of stunting, micro-nutrient deficiency and obesity is a fact of life for many of the world’s children.

The good news is that every school day 368 million children sit down to a school meal.  This is important because we know from extensive research that school feeding is an effective way to fight malnutrition and improve life outcomes.

Governments in sub-Saharan Africa are increasing looking at ways to scale up sustainable school feeding programmes that source their food from local farmers. Known as Home Grown School Feeding, these programmes can potentially act as a ‘win-win’ for local communities by providing free nutritious school meals to children whilst at the same time providing a market for the produce of local farmers.

One such country is Ghana, which through its Ghana School Feeding Programme provides free school meals to over 1.7 million children every school day.

To meet this challenge, Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development(PCD) in partnership with Dubai Cares is working with the government to pioneer a new approach that is tackling child malnutrition head-on by linking together nutritious school meals with community focused nutrition and hygiene training.

Gingerbread and Buckets

school cook with handy measuresCreating nutritionally balanced school meals using local ingredients is not an easy thing to do. This is doubly true when the children relying on your school meals are from communities where food insecurity is high and malnutrition and anaemia are common conditions.

To help schools and caters to develop nutritious school meals, PCD has launched a state of the art, easy to use web-based school meals planner which allows users to create and fully cost menus using locally available ingredients. By linking local market prices to the ingredients, the tool displays the actual cost of each meal to the user.  With this information, programmes managers are able to create accurate and realistic school meals budgets.

The strength of the tools lies in its simplicity; you don’t need to be nutritionist to create healthy nutritionally balanced meals. Gingerbread children graphics to show how much a meal is meeting the recommended daily intake of nutrients as identified by the WHO.

The tool is designed to work in conjunction with ‘handy measures’ – everyday measuring utensils like buckets and spoons which PCD have calibrated to international standard units so that to caters can accurately recreate  nutritionally balanced meals without having to buy expensive kitchen scales and equipment.

One such cater is Stella who has just been employed by the Government to cook for  the 100 children that attend the New Mangonese Primary School  on the outskirts of the Accra, Ghana’s capital city, “I’ve learnt a lot in terms of how to prepare food hygienically and measure it out accurately so I’m cooking the right amounts.”

Healthy Homes

impatientoptimist articleGood child nutrition and hygiene starts at home. To ensure this the programme is promoting healthier lifestyles by training 400 community based health and nutrition champions to take the healthy living message deep into their local communities.

Through community meetings, the distribution of tens of thousands of health posters and radio jingles, community leaders and parents are being taught simple and practical ways to ensure that their children stay healthy and happy.

As mother of two, Mercy Awonor from Accra, can attest these health messages are getting through to parents and children alike, “I always knew the importance of cooking my children healthy meals but I wasn’t always sure what food was good and what was bad. Now with all the posters around the village and the health messages on the radio I know the food I should be cooking. My children also know what is good for them. ”

PCD’s Executive Director Dr Lesley Drake said, “By coupling high tech digital resources such as the meals planner with low tech community engagement, integrated school feeding and  health programmes are vital if governments are to tackle the malnutrition crisis facing the next generation. “

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Improving incomes in Ghana's School Feeding Programme

Caterer in GhanaIn February contracts were signed by beneficiaries of Ghana's School Feeding Programme, ensuring that caterers are able to purchase quality food directly from the farmers, allowing them to get good prices for farmer produce, and so that farmers have ready access to markets.  

The contract signing process has been facilitated by Imperial College London's Partnership for Child Development, in collaboration with the Government of Ghana and partners, and began in Ghana's Akwapim North District. The process was initiated after farmers and caterers highlighted the usefulness of such agreements during round table discussions held last year.

After contracts have been signed in the Akwaipim North District, the same event will be carried out across all 29 districts of Ghana where the GFSP is being implemented. 


Innovative school meals planning tool expands reach in Ghana

Imperial College London's Partnership for Child Development have begun to expand its on and offline School Meals Planner enhancing the quality, quantity of school meals in Ghana's northern region - specifically, into disctricts in which partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) operate in.

To do this, PCD have been training WFP staff to use both the planner and handy measures - everyday items such as spoons and jugs which calibrate food quantities. Equipped with this new knowledge WFP are set to roll out training for disctrict level actors and caterers within their project districts, and they will also ensure caterers are fully equipped with the handy measure tools they need.

Read more: Innovative school meals planning tool expands reach in Ghana


Zanzibar School Attendance Increases to 86% Following HGSF Launch

web smiling cookAfter five months of Zanzibar’s Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme implementation, preliminary results from a survey on its impact show that 
  • Enrolment has increased by 18% in the programme's nine schools 
  • Pupil attendance increased to 86% by the end of the third school term 
  • High school dropout cases declined to more than half 
Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD) supported the survey led by the Government which looked at household and smallholder farmer status, school enrolment, performance and attendance. 

Read more: Zanzibar School Attendance Increases to 86% Following HGSF Launch


Malian Government Overcome HGSF Challenges

participants at the SNV eventVarious initiatives were identified to make school feeding efficient, nationally owned and sustainable throughout Mali at a learning event themed, the “Role of key stakeholders in the success and sustainability of school feeding in Mali”.

The event was hosted by Mali’s National School Feeding Centre (CNCS), with support from Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD) and Dutch development organisation SNV.

“The Government of Mali is strongly committed to promoting school feeding in order to face the challenges in education, health and nutrition for school-aged children,” said General Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mr Souleymane Goundiam. He continued, “But, we must recognize that the national school feeding programme faces bottlenecks, especially given Mali’s recent political crisis, this workshop is therefore of particular importance.”

Read more: Malian Government Overcome HGSF Challenges


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