Food and education: Background considerations for policy and programming

Food helps children concentrate and improves their attendance and overall performance in schools. This report looks at the use of Food and Education (FAE) initiatives -- designed to take place before, during and/or after the period of food assistance -- that offer direct benefits towards bringing about both short and long-term changes in school students.

During the 1990s the relationship between food assistance and education received renewed attention as educators and food-assistance practitioners questioned the assumptions and implementation models of traditional school-based food assistance programmes. In the food and education model, school-based food assistance activities are combined with other food and non-food-supported interventions designed to improve education. Evidence shown in the report, Food and education: Background considerations for policy and programming by Cornelia Janke (USAID 2001) states that school feeding and take-home rations dramatically increase both student enrolment and attendance. In addition, early morning breakfasts, or nutritional snacks, help improve short-term hunger and attentiveness, particularly among chronically undernourished students. Some evidence supports the assertion that school-feeding activities have a positive effect on community participation in education, although such progress seems largely dependent on the programme's type and quality.

When it comes to assessing the outcome and impact of FAE programmes, planners can think about two general types of education indicators. One focuses on the students' progress through the system, while the other focuses on the students' learning outcomes. Progress indicators focus on enrolment, attendance and pupil flow rates. Learning indicators focus on things like achievement test scores and regular performance assessments.