School Health Nutrition Practitioner Spotlight

School Meals Coalition

Launched at the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, national political leaders formed a global coalition to rebuild, improve, or scale up their national school health and nutrition programmes following the impact of COVID-19. The School Meals Coalition aims to: (1) Restore national school meals programmes to pre-pandemic coverage by 2023; and by 2030 to (2) Reach the 73 million most vulnerable children who were not previously reached; and (3) Raise the quality of school health and nutrition programmes globally. To date, nearly 100 countries along with three regional bodies and more than 130 partner organizations have signed onto the School Meals Coalition.

The Coalition is supported by a Secretariat hosted by the UN World Food Programme as well as by partner-led initiatives, including the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition.

Girls Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS)

The GIFTS Program is designed to improve the nutritional status of menstruating girls/women aged 10-19 years in Ghana. The program, which is supported through a collaboration with the Ghana office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Ghana Ministries of Health and Education, Emory University Global Health Institute and The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides free weekly IFA supplementation delivered to in-school and out-of-school adolescent girls as well as health and nutrition education sessions for both boys and girls.

An evaluation of the GIFTS program assessed its impact in school-attending girls from the 2017-2018 academic year in four regions: Brong-Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, and Volta. The impact evaluation found that the prevalence of anemia among girls in the program dropped from 25% to 19.5%. Learn more about the GIFTS program and its impact by watching this webinar hosted by the Global Nutrition Coordination Plan.


School meals are an effective way to keep children in school and learning while there. Food for Education delivers subsidized school meals to primary schools, sourcing ingredients from local farmers and preparing meals in central kitchens to ensure all meals meet food safety standards. Schools that partner with Food for Education perform statistically better on national education exams than non-enrolled schools.

Food4Education uses a digital money platform to enable parents to contribute towards the subsidized meals technology ($0.15 per meal). This technology also allows Food4Education to monitor the program’s effectiveness and reach in real time. Food4Education reached 33,000 children daily in 2020 and intends to reach 100,000 by the end of 2022. Through a collaboration with Nairobi Country, Food4Education will provide 400,000 daily lunches for children in 225 primary schools and Early Childhood Development centers in the Kenyan capital from August 2023.

Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs

In 2017 and 2018, the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs established a national program to procure and deliver sanitary towels to 3.7 million girls in primary, special primary and secondary schools. The motivation for this large-scale effort came from the Republic of Kenya’s Constitution which enshrines a commitment to gender equality as well as the country’s Basic Education Act and Goal 4 of the SDGs. Research conducted by the World Bank estimated that adolescent girls in low and middle-income settings may be absent up to four school days out of every 28 days due to inadequate menstrual hygiene management (Mooijman et al., 2005). Not all research has found a clear link between provision of sanitary towels and school days missed. However, when attendance data are missing from school registries, simply excluding the missing data incorrectly minimizes any program effects. A recent randomized controlled trial that corrected for these problems in data collection from Kenya estimated a reduced effect while nonetheless confirming that provision of sanitary towels reduces absenteeism among adolescent girls by more than 5%. Despite some dispute on the magnitude of the effect, this program is clearly critical to to improving school attendance.

Healthy Learners

Healthy Learners supports the Zambian Ministries of Health and General Education to deliver health services to Lusaka primary schools. Their model trains and equips teachers as school health workers who monitor student health, assess children who are unwell, administer basic medical care, and refer sick children, thereby making schools a principal access point into the healthcare system.

In response to COVID-19, they adapted programmatic operations by partnering with the school health workers to disseminate accurate health information, supporting the Zambia Ministry of Health to leverage schools as hubs for disease surveillance, and collaborating with both the health and education ministries to develop and implement Zambia’s COVID-19 guidelines for safe school reopening.

Learn more about Healthy Learners by watching a recording of their participation in the September 2020 Child Health Task Force webinar (passcode: .3G9JvAn).

USAID/Senegal Country Mission

USAID/Senegal supports a $2 million, three-year project to increase access to water in school settings of the Matam Region of Senegal to improve children’s ability to learn. This investment is intended to improve students’ learning conditions through better access to water at hand-washing stations, including adding or rehabilitating micro-boreholes with solar pumps and by bringing water to schools in arid areas with the help of donkey-drawn water carts. These investments will be coupled with school hygiene education.