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Feeding the Future of Africa through Food for Education

Using smart technology, operations and logistics to create a sustainable and scalable model that will feed the future of Africa.

Photo of Wawira Njiru
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Food for Education

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://food4education.org/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Nairobi

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Kenya

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Our vision is to scale to 10 counties across Kenya which cover a total area of 88,752km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Kenya

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Kenya has 12.5 million school-going children majority of whom go to school hungry. Hunger is primarily the result of poverty and income inequality with 46% of Kenyans living in extreme poverty and 51% experiencing food insecurity. This not only has immediate and long-lasting adverse effects on the physical, emotional and intellectual development of children, but also affects their lifetime experiences and earnings and ultimately a country’s economic performance. Failing to invest in nutrition early in children’s lives, will result in a country missing out on economic development. School feeding programs have multiple benefits for local economies with recent studies showing that there is a $9 return on investment for every $1 invested (WFP and Boston Consulting Group).

Our Founder and Executive Director, Wawira Njiru, grew up in a small community in Ruiru, Kenya. She observed that a lot of kids in her neighborhood would go hungry. She would share her lunch with her playmates and very early on was conscious about her privilege of having three meals a day. While pursuing her degree in nutrition and food sciences at the University of South Australia, she began to learn about the impact of nutrition on children’s ability to learn and grow. She was able to relate every statistic about nutrition with the children she grew up with. Wawira started “Food for Education” because she believed that kids like the ones she grew up with shouldn’t have to grow up in hunger.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Kenya has the largest, most diversified economy and the second largest population in East Africa. It also has a young, ambitious and well-educated workforce eager to contribute to the development of the country. As “the gateway to East Africa,” Kenya plays a vital role as a transportation hub for much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenya has experienced a decade of rapid economic growth. The inclusion of food and nutrition security in the government’s ‘big four’ priorities, the country’s openness to innovation and constitutional changes that devolve administrative responsibilities to county governments, have offered opportunities for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger and improved nutrition in Kenya. Although the country has recently acquired lower-middle-income status, the increased wealth has not benefited all Kenyans equally. 1 in every 3 Kenyans lives under the international poverty line and social, economic and gender disparities remain.

Although agriculture is the main economic driver with more youth taking up agribusiness, the World Food Programme estimates that food inflation is currently at 10.02% as a result of inefficient broken food systems. Typically, food insecure families live in rural areas, are poor and depend on daily agricultural labor for income. The Cost of Hunger in Africa study launched in November 2019, quantified the social and economic costs of under-nutrition in Kenya. According to the findings, Kenya is losing an equivalent of $3.7 billion/year (6.9 percent of GDP) due to under-nutrition.

A healthy nation is a successful nation. Kenya’s hunger and under-nutrition problem can only be solved through a collaborative prioritization of child nutrition, the creation and strengthening of nutrition-sensitive policies as well as the implementation of proven models like ours, at scale. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

580367

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

47564296

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Currently, access to adequate quantities of nutritious food remains a challenge for many, especially in arid and semi-arid regions which make up 80% of the country’s land area.  Factors include rapid population growth – at an annual rate of 2.9%, stagnating agricultural production, climate change and broken food systems. The WFP reports that 29% of children in rural areas and 20% of those living in cities are stunted. Significant vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a severe public health problem.

Agriculture remains the main economic driver but is very vulnerable to climate shocks. Unpredictable rainfall and recurring droughts contribute to the disruption of crops – 95% of which are rain-fed – and the erosion of soils. Inefficiencies in food systems lead to high prices and insufficient market supplies, limiting the availability of, and access to, food and this will likely continue into the future (2050).

Hungry children cannot learn. The biggest challenge for the design and effective delivery of school feeding programmes has always been their feasibility, scalability and sustainability. Some of the key challenges in bringing nutritious food to vulnerable children are creating links to smallholder farmers to bring fresh, locally grown food to urban and semi-urban schools, and encouraging and managing parent and community participation to ensure sustainability.

With foreign aid cuts, many donor reliant programs on the continent are shutting down or being handed over to local governments with poor commitment to funding and lack of successful and scalable implementation models. School feeding programs as they are currently structured across Africa, cannot continue to be donor funded if they are to be sustainable. In their design therefore, key factors around sustainable funding and the logistics of sourcing and distribution of fresh food must be addressed.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Food for Education has leveraged local resources and the use of innovative technology and supply chain management to design a robust, sustainable, cost-effective and scalable mass school feeding program and our Vision is to replicate our model in multiple counties across Kenya and eventually, Africa.

We have has successfully provided over 1,000,000 meals through smart operations and logistics powered by innovative technology. We source from smallholder farmers and prepare school lunches in central kitchens. Our meals constitute 40% of the recommended daily allowance for a child. We serve a variety of rice, beans, maize, beef, vegetables, fruit and chapati (made from fortified wheat flour and is our local equivalent of roti). We use iodized salt in recommended amounts to provide iodine and fortified oil to meet to meet the energy needs and facilitate absorption of fatty soluble vitamins. Our rations are guided by the requirements of the Kenya National School Meals and Nutrition Strategy 2017- 2022 and meet the criteria which ensures that the meals are:

• Nutritionally appropriate

• Socially appropriate and acceptable

• Practically feasible and sustainable

Parents use mobile money linked to NFC wrist bands to contribute $0.15 per meal making our nutritious lunches the most affordable meals in Kenya.

Our model’s strength lies in partnerships between farmers, communities, parents, corporate and government. By developing technology that parents can use to contribute for their children’s lunches, sourcing ingredients from local farmers, hiring and training cooks from communities and working with corporate and governments we are building a sustainable, long term solution whose vision is to end childhood hunger in Kenya.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Properly designed school meals improve the health and nutrition status of children by addressing macronutrients and micronutrients deficiencies. A study in Ghana by Abizari (2014) showed that anemia prevalence for children participating in a school meals programme was 10% less compared to the control group. Their energy, nutrient and micronutrient intake were also higher. India’s Midday Meals Programme showed significant positive impact on the height, weight and health of children in the program (Singh 2014). On average children’s nutrient consumption went up on school days by the equivalent of 50 to 100 percent of the nutrients in school meals. Additionally, there was a direct positive impact on the children’s nutrition status and dietary diversity that helped promote intergenerational and life-long healthy eating habits (Afridi 2004).

School meals help maximize the return on investment because they facilitate access to school, increased enrolment, performance and attendance rates. A study of school meals programmes across 32 sub-Saharan countries showed an increase in enrolment in schools with a school meals programme, further showing that children receiving a school meal annually attend school 4-7 days more than children who do not receive school meals. Additionally, school meals programmes increase children’s performance on cognitive, math and language tests (Gelli 2015).

The above direct outcomes from well-designed school meals programmes contribute to fulfilling the mandates of multiple SDGs in food security, education, health, nutrition, poverty eradication and agriculture. We have strongly contributed to the achievement of zero hunger (SDG 2), hence facilitating inclusive and equitable quality education (SDG 4). Our adaptation of the home-grown school feeding initiative has enabled the farmers to have decent work and contribute to economic growth (SDG 8) and subsequently, providing an opportunity to the children to break out of the poverty cycle (SDG 1).

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The World Food Programme (WFP) through a sample size of 14 countries recently found that for every $1 invested in school lunches, there is a $3-$9 return. Home-grown school meals programmes in Kenya (championed by the World Food Programme and the Government of Kenya) generate $9 for every $1 invested. The benefits are numerous from improved health, nutrition and education during childhood, children are more productive as adults and live longer and healthier. With the overwhelming evidence showing the impact of school feeding programmes on health, education and lifelong outcomes, the challenge globally has been how to cost effectively deliver nutritious lunches to the millions of children in schools.

Food for Education’s innovative tech-driven way of sourcing, producing and distributing affordable, high quality nutritious meals solves this challenge. We source ingredients from local small holder farmers and produce high-quality meals in central kitchens to lower cost and improve efficiency. We then distribute meals to regions of schools where parents pre-pay $0.15 for meals through mobile money accounts linked to Near Field Communication (NFC) wrist bands that children wear to school and Tap2Eat in under 5 seconds.

Through a hub and spoke model and the use of smart logistics and technology, we are providing the cheapest school meals in Kenya for parents and are building Africa’s first sustainable and scalable school meals programme. Sourcing from smallholder farmers has broadened the benefits to the local economy by providing a structured demand, a stable market and income opportunities in Kenya. Our adoption of the “Home-grown” school feeding programme has provided us an opportunity to achieve multiple benefits across the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have pioneered an innovative and cost-effective model where at scale, parents’ contributions cover 112% of total food expenses and 82% of total expenditure. Whereas previously, big aid or governments have struggled to fund 100% of school feeding program costs, our model’s greatest strength lies in involving parents whose contributions cover the largest costs in our budget. We use smart operations, technology and logistics to provide meals at a cost that is affordable for parents therefore giving them value that they invest in.

Our sustainable, scalable model has created the first true path to feeding at least 250 million African children in urban and peri-urban primary schools. Recognizing that it is operationally impossible for one organization to provide 250 million meals across 55 African countries, through scale, we will encourage businesses to invest in school feeding as we will have proven the business case. We are partnering with local governments to cover part of capital expenditure for kitchen set-up that would lower barriers for setting up new mega central kitchens and through advocacy pushing national government funding to cover the 18% overheads gap. By pioneering our model and with the support of the Food Systems Vision Prize, we are creating a sustainable, technology and data driven way of solving one of the world’s persistent problems by 2050 - child hunger that impacts education and leaves generations in poverty.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners

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Team

Hi Wawira Njiru  welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!

As we begin the countdown to deadline day, please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision. Here is the link to the pocket guide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o8WGMus6-V8GywWdlNwmCpk7I1fMVzcQ/view

Look forward to seeing your submission finalized by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST.