The School Feeding Programme promotes educational outcomes by enabling children to attend classes consistently and improving their ability to learn, when they are in school. Nearly all countries around the world have some form of school feeding programme. In our country, the government recognizes school meals as an essential tool for the development and growth of children, communities, and society as a whole.

In Bangladesh, school feeding is considered as a successful programme. It has contributed significantly higher enrollment rates, improved attendance and a higher number of primary education completions. It also reduces absenteeism and dropout rates even in poverty-prone areas. The fortified biscuits provided through the School Feeding Programme, minimize students’ short-term hunger, and create a more positive learning environment and allow students to better concentrate in class.

The School Feeding (SF) programme commenced in Bangladesh in 2001 by WFP as an emergency response programme to 350,000 schoolchildren from flood-affected families in Jessore district with the aim of bringing them back into school. The SF programme was considered highly successful and thence included as a core-component in the WFP’s country programme to address poor enrollment and attendance rates in poverty stricken areas of Bangladesh.

Given the positive impact of SF for more than a decade and lessons learned from the SF programme of WFP, the Government of Bangladesh, with direct technical assistance from WFP, began school feeding programmes to 56,635 primary students in two upazilas in 2011 with their own resources. By 2016 it has reached up to 2.53 million students in 72 upazilas run by the government. It is to be noted here that during last five years, there have been successive rounds of handover from WFP to the government and WFP’s coverage is decreasing as such. WFP now covers around 0.5 million school children in food-insecure and poverty-prone areas. Prioritization of the current programming areas has been based on the Poverty Map. At present the SF programme coverage reach over 3 million school children in 15,700 schools in 93 upazilas of 29 districts of Bangladesh.

The SF programme provides biscuits fortified with vitamins and minerals to pre-primary and primary school children in high poverty prone areas. WFP works with the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME) of the Government of Bangladesh. WFP also assist to enhance the capacity of the DPE in scaling up of school feeding and its management. Following a request from the government, WFP is providing technical support to MoPME to develop the National School Feeding Policy and Strategy.

Objective of the Project

Long term objectives

The overall objective of this project is to contribute in achieving Universal Primary Education. The programme is targeting to cover all primary students gradually, depending on the availability of resources.

Short term objectives
  • Increase enrollment and attendance rates of primary school students in food-insecure areas;
  • Improve health and learning ability of primary school children by reducing micronutrient deficiencies;
  • Enhance the government’s capacity to implement the school feeding programme efficiently and effectively.

Organizational Structure and Responsibility

The school feeding programme is being implemented with the overall guidance and supervision of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME). The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) and WFP are jointly implementing the programme at school level with the help of cooperating partners (NGOs). At central level an inter-ministerial Project Steering Committee (PSC) has been formed headed by the Secretary of MoPME to review the implementation process of the project. At DPE level there is a Project Implementation Committee (PIC) headed by the Director General (DG) of DPE to review the plan of activities of PIMU/DPE, budget, and annual work-plan and to monitor the management of this project. Besides embedded in DPE, the Project Liaison Unit (PLU) of WFP provides comprehensive technical assistance to PIMU/DPE in order to build internal capacity for independent management of the school feeding programme.

Essential Learning Package

The school feeding programme includes an essential learning package (ELP) with the aim to disseminate the importance of setting up school vegetable gardens, lessons on health-hygiene education,the necessity of de-worming, water and sanitation, awareness on disaster risk reduction, nutrition education and social issues, such as dowry, early marriage and pregnancy. In addition, the SF programme continue advocacy on the active role and awareness building for the promotion of women’s leadership in the School Management Committees(SMC). ELP messages are being disseminated to students through parents, teachers, SMC and other community members.

Vegetable gardens are created for students to learn how limited space can be used, how to rotate a variety of vegetables, preserve seeds and possible methods for pest control. Students then can take this knowledge home and pass it on to their families and help to establish home gardens there.

Economic Benefits

  • The economic benefits stemming from the educational and nutritional outcomes as a result of school feeding last a lifetime.
  • The SF programmes have proven to be cost-efficient interventions, especially when combined with related educational programmes.
  • A cost benefit analysis undertaken in 2010 by the Boston Consulting Group estimated that the SF programme in Bangladesh achieves a return of investment of 4 to 1.
  • A sample of ten countries providing school meals, take home rations or biscuits, showed that every US$1 invested brought a US$3 to US$8 economic return from improved health and education among school children and increased productivity when they become working adults. Evidence like this help to encourage governments to invest in school feeding and creating sustainable programmes with pervasive results.
  • Keeping children in school is one of the most effective means of increasing their future income earning potential and is an effective strategy for delaying marriage and increasing mobility for girls. It also improves their chances of having the knowledge and resources needed to be able to provide the right amount of food for their own children later in life.
  • When school meal programmes use local products, this provides additional benefits for smallholder farmers and communities and supports rural economies.
  • The Government of Bangladesh recognizes SF as an investment case and is fully committed to make it a national school feeding programme. School feeding was also incorporated as a priority in the National Education Policy, 7th Five Year Plan (2016-20) as well as reflected in the Vision 2021 for a generation to contribute to the economic activities of a middle income country.

Technical Assistance: World Food Programme (WFP)

The Project Liaison Unit (PLU) of WFP located at the Directorate of Primary Education provides technical assistance in regards to programme design & management, preparing necessary guidelines, monitoring, reporting, assessment and evaluation, facilitate inter-agency coordination, NGO selection and performance assessment, selection of biscuit factories, procurement of biscuits and quality control support to DPE. WFP is also enhancing the capacity of DPE and assists in scaling up their School Feeding Programme in Poverty-Prone Areas. Apart from that WFP continue technical assistance to MoPME for formulation of the National School Feeding Policy and Strategy.

Entitlement of the SF Programme

In the school feeding programme each child is entitled to receive a 75 gram pack of fortified biscuits, six days a week based on daily attendance. Each pack of biscuits contains 338 kilocalories and about 67% of the daily ‘Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of a child. The support of fortified biscuits contributes to more positive learning environment. Moreover, it acts as an additional incentive for parents to keep their children in school.