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Food for Education

School-run restaurants turn profits into school lunches in Kenya.

Photo of Wawira Njiru
28 11

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

26% of Kenya’s children are stunted due to chronic undernutrition and 40% of Kenya’s population is undernourished. 43% (21 million) of Kenya’s population is below 15 years old and 46% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. Climate change has severely undermined food security for Kenya and other African countries with those living in urban slum areas particularly vulnerable as they do not often produce their own food. In slum areas, food availability, access and use which are the three pillars of food security continue to be a challenge with children being the most vulnerable. Community school based restaurants provide food for education at heavily subsidised prices to primary school students in slum areas to improve nutrition status, improve school attendance and performance. We prepare standardised and nutritious menus, source for food directly from farmers at competitive prices enabling access to fresh and nutritious food and provide high quality food to students at heavily subsidised prices. To cover the extra cost of the subsidies, we sell food to community members at the restaurant and a food delivery system similar to 'dabbawalas', improving access to fresh, nutritious and high quality food leading to healthier, more stable and literate communities. To improve food use as an aspect of food security, we will hold regular nutrition classes, practice and teach smart farming practices that encourage urban slum dwellers to grow their own food in their homes.

WHO BENEFITS?

The pilot program in Kenya has benefited over 100 school children from slum areas and sells food to over 100 community members a day. This has resulted in improved nutrition status, school attendance, performance and primary school to secondary school transition rates. As food security continues to be a challenge for communities in slum areas, expansion plans are underway to benefit 1500 students in 2 slum based schools and over 500 community members a day and expand to reach more in the future.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

The project considers climate change as key factor in food security challenges affecting Kenya and the African continent. The Kenya Climate Change response strategy considers adaptation to climate change as the main strategy to build resilience. The project model considers sustainable agriculture as one of the pillars through which the community adapts and builds resilience in the face of the effects of climate change. Our project focuses on creating sustainability by considering food production from the farm to the plate. This model ensures we are able to join in the efforts of others within the surrounding area and leverage our strengths for the benefit of all. We accomplish sustainability by sourcing our food from small scale organic farmers in the area contributing to the local economy. Our project leverages on existing community structures (schools), has been conceptualised and continues to be implemented in close partnership with local government, community leaders and residents of the area. The program promotes gender equality as provision of food at schools encourages parents to send girls to school improving access to education in slum areas for the girl children. Our pilot program's success has led us to participate in various platforms that influence climate change, education and agriculture policy at the both the county and national level.We intend to use the impact emanating from our project to influence policy at the national level and provide a model for sustainable solutions promoting food security in slum areas and resilience to climate change effects.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I am the founder and Executive Director of Food for Education a non for profit organisation that works to improve the lives of vulnerable children in public schools through sustainable feeding programs. I have a degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences and I'm currently doing a masters in Public Health

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

Our organisation has been implementing a school feeding program for primary school children in a school located in a slum area since 2012. Our targeted approach worked with only the most vulnerable children as identified by school teachers and has provided nutritious meals to over 100 students in our pilot program. As most children in the school we currently we work with and other schools in the area face the challenge of accessing nutritious food due to increased food insecurity, we have been working on a sustainable model for scale through feedback from students, school teachers, local government, parents and other community stakeholders. We currently run the Double Portion restaurant in the community that provides meals to community members and covers 62% of our cost of food and will be expanding this model to provide for more community members and generate income to cover food subsidies for students.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

Our idea leverages on community structures to address food insecurity for school children in an innovative way. We identified a business niche which was the luck of low cost restaurants that provide nutritious food to a population of over 1.6 million people that live in our county many who live in poverty. We developed a business that addresses this niche and provides profits to subsidise meals for vulnerable school children. Because we leverage on already existing structures such as schools, and existing transport systems, we are able to create more impact and design feeding programs that not only benefit school children from slum areas but bring community resources together to contribute to this. We partner with parents who meet half the cost of food and provide a market for local farmers to provide fresh and nutritious product at competitive prices. By connecting them directly to slum communities that are heavily populated, we also provide farmers with a steady market for their produce and ensure slum communities have a steady supply of fresh and nutritious food. By using local transport systems (matatus) we reduce costs and tap into already existing systems to be more efficient

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

As we have already piloted having a community restaurant and a school feeding program in the area, some of the unanswered questions as we scale are: 1. Will access to fresh and nutritious food at our community restaurant lead to behaviour change where community members will opt for more nutritious food at home? 2. How will access to food for school children impact school performance for students and primary to secondary school transition rates? Already, our pilot program shows an impact on school performance but will this effect apply on a larger population? 3. How will provision of a nutritious lunch impact children's nutrition status and indicators in the community?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

In Kenya, the presence of middle men that connect farmers to the market leads to exploitation of farmers and high cost of food that makes slum dwellers particularly vulnerable as they are low income earners. Limited space in slum areas makes it difficult for slum communities to grow their own food and they also lack the knowledge on how to do this. Our idea bridges the gap between slum communities and farmers through community school based restaurants and also uses the restaurants as 'hubs' to provide education on urban farming practices, nutrition classes and empower customers to grow their own food in their communities. This will improve food security for slum communities.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

1. We have created more structure around offering nutrition and urban farming classes to members of our community through using community restaurants as 'hubs'. We have brought on board an urban farming expert who will consult and design the curriculum for the short courses. We have also began establishing a community garden at the school that will be used for demonstrations and as a teaching tool. 2. Our original idea involved all students at the school paying the subsidised cost of a meal but with consultation realised that this would not be possible for all students. To promote equity, we will provide food for free to children who lack complete access to food and cover this cost through the profits made at the restaurant. 3. After consultation with Ideo experts, our team and community, we have added food delivery to our business model. Our current restaurant covers 62% of our expenditure and has around 100 customers a day. To grow our customer base, we plan on implementing a food delivery system similar to 'dabbawalas' in India that are used to deliver food to people in their offices to increase revenue and contribute towards 100% sustainability. This will enable us to cover management fees and operation costs. Due to increased urbanisation, there are more office workers in our county and a need for well cooked, affordable lunch. Filling this gap will help us generate more revenue as office workers can buy food for more and help cover the cost of subsidies.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

We would like to improve food security for slum communities by improving access to nutritious food for slum communities. Food security is closely tied to development and the ability to break the poverty cycle for those living in slum areas. This is particularly true for school children where food insecurity leads to inequality in the education process. Our ultimate goal is to scale and work with more communities to improve access to fresh and nutritious food and use community restaurants as 'hubs' that promote education on smart farming, good nutrition to boost resilience to the effects of climate change on slum areas. Our next steps are illustrated in the image attached.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

Food insecurity has been identified as a key issue in our county that keeps many children from urban slums away from school. To address this, the county government currently provides porridge to Early Childhood Development learners who are 6 years and below to keep them in school. Our model builds on that by providing meals to primary school children who are 6 years and above. We are looking at how we can work with the county government to contribute to the cost of subsidies as part of their initiative to provide food to vulnerable school children and keep them in school. Our current restaurant business model taps a niche in the community for low cost, high quality, hygienic food. In our county, low income earners find it hard to access nutritious food prepared in sanitary conditions. Our model provides this while addressing food insecurity for vulnerable school children and complementing the local government's efforts to keep children in school through provision of nutritious food.

28 comments

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Comment
Photo of Christopher
Team

I followed the idea from the beginning and I love how it gets more concrete and how it improved over time!

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you Christopher! We are excited to be implementing this and the impact it's having on our community.

Photo of Christopher
Team

I am glad to hear that =)

Photo of Harry Di Francesco
Team

Congratulations, this is a promising plan! I wonder what your thoughts are on applying this model more widely in other countries. How many of these problems are local to Kenya vs local to East Africa vs local to other developing countries? How much of your model is applicable in other areas? Great stuff!

Photo of James Martin
Team

A well thought out plan Wawira.

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you James! We're excited to be implementing it.

Photo of Julie Abuka
Team

Hey wawira,
Been keen on following and donating to your cause.
I run a logistics startup called SPEEDit, and I think we should work together to actualize the "dabawalas delivery system"
It's the best, most effecienct logistics model that even companies like DHL borrow from

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Hey Julie Abuka that would be great. Please send me an email on wawira@food4education.org to work together. Thanks 

Photo of Andreea
Team

Super fan of this idea!

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you Andreea :). We are excited to work on implementing it!

Photo of Elly Mjeni
Team

This is a really good idea. People focus mainly on leaders of tomorrow not realising that they journey starts in thé present. It is commendable and admirable of you to come up with such an initiative,  I wish more people thought it a good initiative as it actually is. Feed them child, keep them in school, avoid all thé vices that come with growing up disadvantaged. Kudos to Food for Education! 

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you @Elly Mjeni for your support and contribution to your work. Look forward to working more together to grow what we do and scale to reach more vulnerable children.

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Hey Chioma Ume we've been consulting with our local government on how they can contribute to cover the cost of subsidies. In Kenya, we have a devolved government system and our county government currently provides porridge for Early Childhood Development learners who are 6 years and below and this has contributed to higher enrolment and school attendance. So far, they have supported our pilot in terms of one-off inkind support and helping us access the necessary licenses to run our kitchen and implement our programs. As we scale, we are engaging them further on this and trying to push to contribute to cover the cost of subsidies. We have held discussions with our local MP on this and we are in still in consultation on that. Nothing is solid yet but as we move to other counties will definitely look at how different county governments can contribute to cover the cost of subsidies.

We had an interesting discussion with Owen Sanderson- Ideo's Business Designer during the office hour and have been researching on how we can expand our business model to be able to cover 100% of our expenses. I am in the process of updating that on our submission. Our model already keeps the costs of operation really low because for example we work with matatus which are Kenya's transport buses to bring food to us from the various locations keeping transport costs low and we work closely with local universities who's students volunteer for our activities and will tap into this to run our campaigns and promote behaviour change. For example, we are looking at how we can provide internships to nutrition students at local universities who can help design and implement our programs. This has worked for us before with our mentorship program which is run by students from local universities. 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Awesome, Wawira - so glad that the office hour helped your thinking about this idea! Thanks for the update!

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you @Chioma Ume. It really did. Really widened our thinking in terms of various business aspects we can implement and how we can rapid prototype all good ideas to learn faster and have better results.

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

Hi Wawiwa, am delighted to see the amazing work your team has invested. When we met at the meetup, your shared briefly on the process of your work. It involves setting up these kitchens, perhaps  http://www.journeymaninternational.org/ might be of help to your proceses. Mamacarts have also done work around food spaces you might want to reach out to Racheal ( http://www.mamacarts.com/profile/rachael-miller/ ) . Keep up with the amazing job .

On your business model, How might exploring partnerships with parties who are offering energy saving and efficient cooking solutions as community demonstration centers look like for your setups? Just a thought.


All the best.

Wekesa

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thanks for the feedback @Wekesa Zablon. I looked at both sites but couldn't explore the mamacarts website as it's down.Journey man International looks great and we are definitely looking at how we can engage them. We have looked at how we can work with JIKOKOA who are based in Ruiru and make low cost energy efficient jikos and a solar company that is experimenting on mass cooking using solar energy. Already, we use energy efficient cookers that cut down our costs but are looking at how we can continue to cut costs as we scale and be more efficient. 

Photo of wekesa zab
Team

Hi wawira  , good to learn that using these energy efficient stoves helps you cut down the cost plus the collaboration with jikokoa is great, keep up with the amazing Work. Do they provide you with custome made stoves for the size of work you do? - meals are more of a community kitchen so am assuming you use slightly bigger stoves . Maybe check out https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/shortlist/mamacarts-empowerment-through-street-food ..  Sure do reach out and see if it might be of value to your team. 

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Hey Wekesa Zablon thanks for the link to mamacarts. They look great and I wish their website was up to learn more about what they are doing now and how implementation is going. We are working for Jikokoa to experiment mass cooking through us by making bigger cookers than they currently use. Also looking at other energy efficient models that we can use. Will have settled on one by early next year which is when we plan to open our kitchen. Thanks for the feedback. Will definitely keep you updated on how we go on this.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Wawira and Team,
Below is some feedback from our experts about your idea. We're looking forward to reading your responses!

It's very reassuring to hear about the current pilot and extensive user feedback. Could you please provide some additional detail in terms of the level of government engagement on the subsidy side? I would be curious from a sustainability perspective.

This type of model has been tried elsewhere and a key potential challenge is sustaining an appropriate revenue stream to cover all costs including management fees, salaries, operation costs, and behaviour change campaigns/promotion, changing community behaviour towards healthy food. Have you considered how you might accomplish this?

The project is simple, seems well-thought and addresses an important issue.

Photo of Georgie Mack
Team

I was lucky enough to visit this project at the beginning of 2014. I was so impressed by Wawira's vision and planning, in particular her commitment to effective assistance for the students of Food4Education, and her plan to drastically increase its impact. This project is backed by enthusiasm and knowledge, and I think this combination will see the project achieve great success.

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Thank you for your contribution Georgie. We love having you on our team and thank you for your continued invaluable support. 

Photo of Rachael Foster
Team

This is a great project, I've seen Wawira's vision grow and develop to incorporate feedback from her community and her knowledge and training in nutrition. I admire her vision to make the project continually more self sustainable and expand to meet more needs in her community

Photo of Lou Heinrich
Team

What an inspiring project! Education truly is the way the world will be changed.
I love that Wawira's vision is to make this sustainable - it will be much more far-reaching and effective long-term!

Photo of rachel temoi
Team

Having been born and raised in Kenya, I have seen firsthand the difficulties faced by the children raised in slum areas. With passing time and increased effects of climate change, the situation has become worse and the numbers of affected children has increased immensely. This project model is very practical and impactful more so because it is focused on every aspect of the society as a whole from the children, parents,small scale farmers in the region and the community at large. This project allows for children to benefit from a balanced nutritious meal something they do not get at home as well as being motivated to go to school which has not been the case despite the free education offered by the government. I like the fact that this does not end with a satisfying meal but that nutritional classes are being offered so as to ensure that the cycle continues and more individuals benefit from the program.
Thumbs up Wawira for the great job you are doing and all the best!!!!!

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on making it to the Feedback Phase Wawira! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 11/16" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

Photo of Wawira Njiru
Team

Hey Mali,
Thank you for your feedback and interest in our work. Yes we run a restaurant who's profits fund our work. It is not based in a school though and this project will be an expansion of that in schools. We don't work with secondary schools because in Kenya, most secondary schools provide food for students. We would like to teach students farming skills and are looking into introducing urban farming classes to their curriculum. I would love to connect with you and learn more about what you do. I used to live in Australia-went there for uni and still have strong ties there. My email is wawira@food4education.org. Looking forward to connecting.

Photo of Mali Hawkins
Team

Hi Wawria,
I am very impressed with this work. I have looked at your website and I note that you have a social enterprise element to your work to help fund the continued provision of food is this correct? I was wondering if you are looking at doing activity in secondary schools? Do you include food literacy education? Do you include training and educational links for the young people to finish school and become farmers who you eventually purchase from?
I work in food security in Australia doing food provision and education with communities who are vulnerable to food insecurity and would love to learn more about your work.