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WFP: free meals for almost half of students but not for the most vulnerable

In low-income countries, the situation has not yet returned to pre-Covid /Annex levels

Nearly 420 million children worldwide receive school meals, according to the State of School-Feeding Worldwide report released today by the UN agency World Food Programme. The survey indicates that, with 345 million people suffering from acute hunger, including 153 million children and young people, school meals are a critical safety net for vulnerable children and families.

"The nearly $50 billion invested in school meals programs around the world offer a promising opportunity to help secure children's futures", the report continues, noting that 75 governments have now joined in a coalition to so that every child gets a nutritious meal every day at school by 2030.

Thanks to a determined effort by governments to restore free meals programs after the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic, the number of children receiving meals globally has now risen by 30 million compared to 2020. This is around 41% of all children going to school.

"It's good news. Governments are making child well-being a priority and investing in the future," said Carmen Burbano, WFP's head of school meals programmes. "As the world grapples with a global food crisis", which risks depriving millions of children of their future, school meals play a vital role. In many of the countries where we work, the meal a child receives at school could be the only meal they eat that day".

However, the report also highlights the differences between the rich world, where 60% of students receive meals at school, and low-income countries where it reaches only 18%. While the recovery has been rapid in most countries, the number of children receiving a school meal in low-income countries is still 4 per cent below pre-Covid levels, with the largest declines seen in Africa. This is despite low-income countries increasing their domestic funding for school meals by around 15% since 2020.

Some low-income countries have failed to rebuild their national programs and are in need of more help, the report said. In eight African countries, less than 10% of school-age children receive a free or subsidized meal at school. For every 100,000 children fed through a school meals program, nearly 1,400 jobs are created, totaling approximately 4 million jobs in 85 countries.

Attached to this EFA News is the full text of the State of School-Feeding Worldwide report by the World Food Programme.

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EFA News - European Food Agency