ROME -- When he was a child, Cuba's Dayron Robles suffered from anaemia, a condition in which the number of red blood cells in the body is seriously reduced. One of the symptoms of the condition is a feeling of chronic tiredness.
Thanks in part to nutritious meals he received at school, Robles overcame the problem. His athletic career blossomed and he is now the world record holder in the 110 mt hurdles event and also the Olympic champion.
His story is a powerful demonstration of how giving poor children nutritious food in school can unlock amazing potential. WFP has been convinced of this for many years and is in fact the world’s lead organization in the field of school meals.
WFP didn’t provide the school meals that Robles benefited from as a child – that was his country’s government. But we have helped many millions of other children in a similar way and have worked with governments to design effective programmes for over 40 years.
At present, we feed more than 20 million hungry children in school every year, bringing them the nutrition they need to thrive, both physically and mentally.
Here’s why we think school meals are such a powerful tool in the fight against hunger:
When school meal rations are combined with de-worming and micronutrient fortification they offer important nutritional benefits.
2. Social Protection
School meals can break the cycle of hunger, poverty, child exploitation by providing much-needed food in the world’s poorest areas. School meals can also reach children affected by HIV/AIDS, orphans, the disabled, former child soldiers.
School meals encourage poor households to send children to school and helps to keep them there. School meal programmes are often specifically targeted to girls, enabling them to go to school and have an education and a future.
4. Supplementary benefits
Schools are the centre of many villages and communities. School meals are a highly participatory programme that connects teachers, parents, cooks, children, farmers, and the local market. In some communities, school meals have become the platform for local poverty reduction and development activities.