Food For Thought
Organized chaos ensues after class as Annie and Esnat dish out nutritionally enriched corn and soya porridge (“phala” in chiChewa) onto plastic plates and deliver them into the eagerly waiting hands of one hundred and fifty frenzied pre-school students. Minutes later, phala devoured, the older students help clean up the classrooms and grounds at Tiyanjane Pre-school, and then lead their younger siblings home, all with full stomachs. School feeding programs such as the one supported by help2kids at Tiyanjane help students to maintain attention, improve attendance, and keep children healthy. In a context where financial and food security is never certain, one extra meal a day can make a huge difference.
Worldwide, there are currently 805 million people who are chronically hungry – not eating enough to support active lives.¹ Among children, 161 million in the world are stunted in growth, and 99 million are underweight.¹ In Africa alone, 226.7 million people do not receive enough food.² In Malawi, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that among children under 5 years of age, 51.8% of girls and 44.1% of boys are stunted in growth and overall, 65.6% are anemic, which indicates their energy and protein needs are not being met.²
Hunger is a very real problem in Malawi that affects many children who often travel long distances to and from school every day without eating. Hunger and malnutrition have long lasting effects on health.³ Malnutrition in particular, early in life leads to decreased physical, mental, and social growth which leads to stunting, lowered immunity, and increased mortality.³ Compared to healthy children, malnourished children start school later, receive less overall schooling, are of smaller stature, and may earn 14% fewer wages as adults.³
School feeding programs are an effective way to address hunger and malnutrition in school-aged children, while also promoting attendance. By receiving nutritious meals at school daily, students are more likely to go to classes. Food availability at school can often be the deciding factor whether or not a child attends school at all.³ Improved nutrition increases concentration and retention of learned material leading to improved performance in school while also strengthening the immune system preventing absences due to illness.³
In January, the community partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to build kitchen/cafeterias at both primary schools in the village of Lifuwu. The WFP supplied many of the building materials, cooking utensils, and all ingredients for daily porridge for the students. The community’s contribution consisted of basic building materials such as bricks, sand, and crushed stones. The community had difficulty meeting its required contribution since bricks are very difficult to obtain during the rainy season. This difficulty was compounded by money being short right before harvest time. To help move the important project forward, a group of help2kids volunteers generously donated money to buy the remainder of the bricks for both structures.
At the time of writing, the structures are nearly complete and the fuel efficient stoves delivered by the WFP have been set up outside of the schools, already providing students with the added nutrition that they need. The primary school students are ecstatic to be receiving meals at school, which is an event that most of them have never experienced. Lifuwu is now in a promising position to substantially improve the health and nutrition of her children with active school feeding programs at a nursery school and two primary schools. For a child to develop normally, good nutrition is most important during the first years of a child’s life.³ Thanks to the support and hard work of help2kids volunteers, supporters, and donors as well as the World Food Programme and the community, a child in Lifuwu can potentially receive a daily meal at school from the age of 3 until s/he enters secondary school!
1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2015). Hunger Facts. Retrieved 19 March 2015 from
2 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2014). Food and Nutrition in Numbers. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
3 Lawson, T.M. (2012). Impact Of School Feeding Programs On Educational, Nutritional, And Agricultural Development Goals: A Systematic Review Of Literature. (Master’s thesis). Michigan State University, MI.