The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and experts from Japan, on February 28, 2023 launched a project to enhance the nation’s school feeding program.
The project, “Protecting vulnerable children from exacerbated food insecurity crisis through Japan’s expertise on school lunch: Intervention in Ghana” with funding from the Government of Japan seeks to protect vulnerable children from escalating food insecurity through Japan’s expertise.
Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, Director, NMIMR in her welcome address stated that the school meals intervention is a multi-sectoral approach that plays an important role in long-term human capital formation by improving young children’s nutrition and learning performance.
“In collaboration with Japanese experts working on school lunch from the University of Niigata Prefecture and Japan Society of Nutrition and Dietetics together with local Ghanaian expertise, the Ghana School Feeding Program and key stakeholders, we plan to introduce a sustainable school meals intervention aiming to support and improve the Ghana School Feeding Program by redesigning menus and strengthening linkages to local agriculture based on Japan’s experience in the school lunch program”, Prof. Yeboah-Manu indicated.
In her remarks, Honorable Francisca Oteng Mensah, Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection indicated that the Ghana Home Grown School Feeding Program like other national social protection interventions provides an opportunity to pursue the nation’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with emphasis on goals one, two and four. Goal one seeks to end poverty in all of its forms, goal two focuses on ending hunger and achieving food security and improved nutrition and goal four seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education opportunities.
“School feeding no doubt, plays an important role in enhancing access to quality basic education for boys and girls, quality early childhood development and ensuring their access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all-year round. The basic concept of the program is to provide people in public primary schools in the poorest areas with one hot, nutritionally adequate meal on every school going day using locally grown foodstuffs. The program is also designed to create farmer linkages through the purchase and use of local farm produce to prepare school meals The Government of Ghana is committed to supporting the nation’s social intervention programs including, the Ghana School Feeding Program”, Hon. Oteng Mensah reiterated.
Dr. Gloria Folson, project lead and a Research Fellow at the Department of Nutrition, NMIMR explained that the project is a committed step to lessen the nutrition challenges in some parts of the country. Adding that “this inception meeting will provide a platform to engage all the appropriate stakeholders and partners for their full involvement”.
Dr. Futoshi Yamauchi, a Senior Research Fellow at the Market, Trade and Institutions Division, IFPRI and also the Principal Investigator for the project, noted that the scope of the school meals intervention is not large scale. Twenty schools will be selected to receive financial assistance for nutrition out of a total of forty intervention schools. Dr Yamauchi explained that the project is a one-year impact evaluation exercise with interventions in the three areas of procurement, nutrition and behavioral change. “It is expected that there would be an improved cash flow system to enable caterers’ timely access to wholesome locally produced food crops for better nutrition of children. Behaviour change communication should lead to better dietary practices, all leading to improved learning and health outcomes”.
The inception meeting witnessed the attendance of Honorable Francisca Oteng Mensah, Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Dr. Kwabena B. Tandoh, Deputy
Director-General for Quality and Access, Ghana Education Service, Theresa Oppong, Director, School Health Education Programme, Yusuke Takahshi, Country Director, KOKO Plus Foundation among other dignitaries.