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School Feeding Is Now the World’s Largest Social Safety Net

When Canada and Nepal are used in the same sentence it’s usually because the former is supporting development efforts in the latter. Not when it comes to feeding children at school.

Worldwide 388 million students, or 1 in 2 schoolchildren, received at least one meal or snack per day at school before the COVID-19 pandemic in what the World Food Programme (WFP), quoting the World Bank, calls the world’s “most extensive social safety net.

”Nepal is in a unique position because it is poised to completely take over school feeding from the WFP, which still serves some remote areas of the South Asian country, by 2024. Canada is also being watched because it is just now taking steps to create a centrally-managed programme, the last G7 country to do so, to buttress current patchwork provincial initiatives.

Motivations for governments to launch school feeding programmes vary, but are not solely linked to socioeconomic status, says Donald Bundy, Professor of Epidemiology and Development and Director of the Global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.