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Running an effective and sustainable school


feeding programme: Key factors to consider
ARTICLE in JOURNAL OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA AUGUST 2011

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1 AUTHOR:
Mahama Saaka
University for Development Studies
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Retrieved on: 08 October 2015

Running an Effective and Sustainable School Feeding Programme: Key


Factors to Consider
Sylevester Galaa1 , Mahama Saaka2
Abstract
This paper seeks to generate debate on the theme of factors that are critical in school feeding
programmes for better results. The information used in developing the paper is derived from
data that were collected from the evaluation of the CRS/Ghana Development Assistants Project
(DAP Title II programme FY2004-08). The findings show that school feeding programmes have
the potential to stimulate enrolment and retention of children, particularly the girl child, and to
improve the academic outcomes of children depending on how the programme blends feeding
with nutritional and other health needs of children on the one hand, and the nature of targeting
mechanisms in order to reach deprived families and needy school children, on the other. The
findings also show that the institutionalisation of structures for partner participation and
capacity building enhances programme effectiveness. However, in order to sustain the benefits of
improved enrolment and attendance, especially of the girl child, it is important to couple food
support with investments in quality education, partner participation and motivation.
Keywords:
CRs/Ghana, school feeding programme, partner capacity building, community participation,
nutritional and health needs
Introduction
Education-for-all by 2015 is perhaps one of the most ambitious of the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) agreed to by the world community several years ago. The full realization of this
goal will only be possible if school enrolment, retention and completion rates are maximized
particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. However, poverty and hunger coupled with socio-cultural
1

Dr. Sylvester Galaa, University for Development Studies, Faculty of Integrated Development Studies,
P O Box 520 Wa, Ghana. Email: sylvestergalaa@yahoo.com

Dr. Mahama Saaka, University for Development Studies, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Box
1350, Tamale. mmsaaka@gmail.com

norms and supply constraints impede progress. Additionally, early malnutrition including
micronutrient deficiencies can adversely affect physical, mental and social aspects of child
health. Studies have linked malnutrition not only to lower enrolment and completion rates but
also to poorer cognitive functioning in those children attending school (Harbison & Hanushek,
1992; Glewwe & Jacoby, 1994; Moock & Leslie, 1986).
Very few people easily recognize the fact that poor nutrition and health among school
children contributes to the inefficiency of the educational system. A review of literature on
School feeding programmes (SFPs) has clearly established the potential of school feeding to
improve quality of education. The feeding programmes provide food for children and they
facilitate improved school enrolment, attendance and child concentration in class. Additionally,
well-designed school feeding programmes that include micronutrient fortification and deworming can provide nutritional benefit (Bundy et al., 2009). SFPs however, have in some cases
been reported to benefit better off families, create dependence, while food management, logistics
and control of food aid have been reported to sometimes represent a significant financial burden
for governments (World Food Program, 1993). Even so, the relevance of SFPs across the globe,
has been well established. What therefore remains is to find effective and sustainable ways of
running them to ensure they benefit and protect those most in need.
Many governments have embarked on SFPs but have often faced implementation
challenges such as programme activity mix, inadequate infrastructure, low level awareness and
disagreements over stakeholder roles and functions and weak collaboration between partners. As
a result the design and implementation of these programmes are often deficient to realize
maximum benefits. The provision of food alone does not make a successful SFP. The
institutional arrangements for delivering the food are equally important. The study evaluated the
institutional arrangements of an SFP implemented by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ghana.
This paper draws on lessons learnt from the CRS sponsored SFP.

Brief Overview of CRS Programme

In spite of a number of educational reforms in Ghana, attaining free compulsory universal basic
education in northern Ghana seems to have remained but a mirage due to intense economic
constraints faced by parents. CRS/Ghana, in an effort to tackle these nagging problems aimed at
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ensuring increased enrolment, retention and learning outcomes in schools in the three northern
regions introduced SFPs under its social safety-nets agenda. The CRS/School Feeding
Programme called Food for Education (FFE) programme, together with its rations component,
was quite extensive, spanning a total of thirty four (34) districts: 8 districts in the Upper East, 8
in the Upper West and 18 in the Northern Region. The FFE covered 963 nurseries and primary
schools with about 48.9% of the schools being in northern region. Its school health education
programme (SHEP), an ancillary to the School Feeding programme, covered 114 beneficiary
schools and communities in the Bongo, East Mamprusi, Bunkprugu Yunyoo and Lawra districts.
CRS/Ghana tackled the demand barriers3 to education by providing incentives such as
school lunches and take-home rations (THRs) to encourage families to send their children to
school. Children who attended primary school in programme communities were provided a mid
morning meal through the school feeding programme (ED/SF), and children attending the preschools, were supplied with early morning snacks and a noontime meal under the pre-school
feeding programme (ED/PSCF).
Community Food Management Committees (CFMCs) oversaw the receipt and
distribution of commodities in each community and meals were prepared on site by community
members. CRS/Ghana provided food/income transfers to school-aged girls and their families in
the form of take-home-rations (ED/THR). In extremely food insecure communities, primary
school girls who achieved an attendance rate of 90 percent or greater received five kilogrammes
of soy, fortified bulgur wheat, and one litre of oil each month. This ration served as a cash
transfer to encourage families to support sending girls to school. The importance of education for
girls was further reinforced through PTA training and community sensitization. The ration for
ED/SF was designed to provide 45 per cent of the daily caloric needs and a significant proportion
of the micronutrient needs of children between the ages of 7 and 10.
CRS/Ghana also sought to ensure childrens ability to benefit fully from their educational
opportunities by improving their health and nutritional status through a School Health Education
Programme (SHEP). Administered jointly by the MoH and the GES, the programme sought to
improve basic health services and health nutrition education through school health teachers and
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Physical access and socio-cultural and economic barriers

outreach visits by district level MoH personnel. The programme placed emphasis on hygiene of
pupils, micronutrients supplementation, de-worming and skilled based health education.
Supplementary to the SFP was a programme on improved quality in primary education
which pursued the following interventions: improving the frequency and quality of supervision,
use of improved teaching methodologies by teachers and through community participation in
educational management. The three-prong interventions have been pursed by CRS under the
Quality Education Improvement Programme (QEIP)
Furthermore, CRS/Ghana worked in collaboration with water implementing agencies in
northern Ghana such as World Vision International (WVI), UNICEF, Opportunities
Industrialization Centres International (OICI) and Das, to ensure the provision of water and
sanitation facilities in programme schools. Appropriate and elaborate structures for programme
implementation, monitoring as well as decision making were established. Partner supervisors
were appointed at regional, district and sub-district or circuit levels for oversight responsibilities
and purposes of problem solving. Community level structures were institutionalised at each
school. Food and Community School Health Management Committees were in place and Parent
Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) in all schools were
revamped to play oversight roles. CRS/Ghana built the capacity of its chain of regional, district,
sub-district/circuit, and school structures to enable them to efficiently play their various
oversight and problem-solving roles. The organisation also collaborated with a number of
multilateral agencies including USAID and World Food Programme (WFP). UNICEF provided
drugs for the de-worming of school children. Partner-supervisors at regional, district and subdistrict levels received training in aspects of community mobilisation, data collection, reporting,
monitoring and supervision while school level committees were trained on how to receive and
manage food supplies.

Methodology

The data for this paper are derived from the final evaluation report of CRS/Ghana DAP Title II
programme FY2004-08 conducted from 22 July to August 18, 2008. A mix of quantitative and
qualitative methods was used.
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Sample Selection
The selection of sample districts was influenced using the geographical and sectoral integration
model adopted by the Title II 2004-08 DAP. The four main interventions of the programme (i.e.
FFE, SHEP, FACS, and SNI) were carried out in a large number of districts based on
geographical and sectoral integration. Thus, in selecting sample districts, all the four SHEP
districts (Lawra, Bongo, East Mamprussi and Bunkprugu/Yunyoo), which also have FACS, were
initially selected. Two other districts namely, Saboba Cheriponi and Wa Municipality
participating in FFE & FACS but not SHEP were then selected. Bawku West was left out
because the district was thought to be unsafe due to ethnic conflict in the neighbouring Bawku
East.
Systematic random sampling was used to select a sample of 60 (that is, 6%) of the 963
participating schools (as per list of participating schools provided by CRS). Thirty six (36) of
these schools were also covered by the school health education programme. GES regional and
district partner supervisors were covered at the selected sample districts. At the
school/community level teachers on the programme, members of school food management
committees (SFMC), community leaders, and selected school pupils from the upper primary
level participated in the study.

Data Ccollection
Focus groups were employed to elicit data from community leaders, school food management
committees and school pupils. Key informants who took part in the study included school
teachers and partner supervisors. Data collected covered the nature and functioning of
community, GES and school based structures instituted for cooking, commodity management
and supervision; issues pertaining to community/partner participation, programme successes,
challenges and sustainability. Quantitative data on commodity distribution and supervision,
school enrolment and retention, were extracted from existing school based reports and project
documents at the CRS office in Tamale. A field manual was developed and this guided data
collection and processing.
Findings of the Study
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The study sought to establish factors to consider in running an effective and sustainable school
feeding programme. Pertinent factors to consider, that emerged from the study findings included:
perceived benefits, lessons from the programme, challenges, and sustainability issues. These
issues are dealt with in some detail in the paragraphs that follow.

Perceived Benefits

The perceived benefits from the SFP included increased enrolment, bridging the gender parity
gap, increased school retention, cognitive and health aspects, community participation and
generating data for school planning.
Increase enrolment: A widely acclaimed benefit of the school feeding programme was
that it had brought about a general increase in enrolment and retention in programme schools.
Available statistics an show excess in yearly enrolment targets set by CRS/Ghana between 2004
and 2007. For instance, whereas 153,146 and 137,253 pupils were targeted in 2004 and 2007,
actual enrolment was 192,049 and 226,026, showing an increase in 25% and 64% respectively.
Bridging gender parity gap: Whereas the enrolment of boys increased from100,693 in
2004 to 116,252 in 2007 that for girls increased from 91,356 in 2004 to 109,774 in 2007
representing an increase of 15% and 20% respectively. The proportional increase of girls
enrolment over boys narrowed the gender parity in programme schools from 0.90 in 2004 to 0.94
in 2007, with the number of programme districts attaining a gender parity of 1:1 increasing from
4 in 2004 to 8 in 2007. The fact that gender parity gaps still exist in many CRS/Ghana FFE
districts means that school feeding must be pursued alongside other strategies before universal
basic education can be attained.
The take home rations component of the school feeding programme shows the rations
have the potential to stimulate enrolment, specifically for the girl child. Available data show that
average enrolment of girls in ration schools was overall higher than that of girls in non-ration
ones between 2004 and 2007. Average enrolment figures for girls were also higher than those of
boys in the same schools. In terms of actual number of girls enrolled in ration schools, the data
show that the figure went up from 44,929 in 2004 to 54,707 in 2007. The enrolment for boys for
the same period was 45,063 in 2004 to 51,869. The net difference was 2838 girls over boys.
It emerged that many children attended school without breakfast because the family
lacked resources, and school children travelled long distances to school, arrived at school already
6

hungry, meaning that it was the food provided at school that sustained these children. This was
the case in districts such as Lawra and Bongo and some pockets of communities in the other six
districts particularly during the lean season when food stocks ran-out. Providing school
children a meal at school was therefore a substantial incentive for parents to enrol their children.
The research team is convinced that a sharp withdrawal of food from programme schools would
negatively affect enrolment and retention, particularly those of the girl child and children in
lower primary in general.
Increasing school retention: Take home rations also have the potential to increase
attendance levels. Comparing average attendance of girls in ration and non-ration schools, it
emerged that attendance was overall higher in ration than in nonration schools between 2004
and 2006 but dropped in 2007. Attendance was not only higher in ration schools but also
retention, as girls who attain at least 90% attendance enjoyed take home rations in addition to the
hot lunch. Available data show that on the whole, the average number of pupils per school who
attain 90% attendance per term was higher for girls than for boys. Whereas the average number
of pupils who attained 90% attendance was 46 in 2004, the actual number for boys was 41
compared to 50 for girls. In 2007, the average number of pupils was 57: 51 for boys and 63 for
girls.
Looking at the distribution by district, 58 % of districts had more girls attaining enrolment
of at least 90% than boys. Respondents the team interacted with in the field were of the view that
take home rations for girls served as food relief to parents and as a result, parents encouraged
their enrolled girls not to default. Similar findings have been reported elsewhere including in
Jamaica and Burkina Faso where providing school meals significantly increased attendance and
arithmetic scores especially among children who were malnourished (Simeon & GranthamMcGregor, 1989; Moore, 1994).
Cognitive and health benefits of school feeding: Providing school children meals was
also noted to have cognitive and health benefits. Respondents observed that meals provided at
school had not only reduced hunger of pupils during school time but had also improved their
general health condition and learning outcomes. At several places, attention was drawn to the
fact that the school hot lunch may be the only meal taken by pupils with balanced diet and
prepared under hygienic conditions compared to meals given to the pupils at home. Thus, the
combined effect of the health, hygiene and de-worming activities pursued under the SHEP
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initiative resulted in improved health and nutritional status of children, which led to increased
retention and educational outcomes in most schools. It was frequently remarked by school
teachers that pupils no longer fall sick as they used to do, an indication of reduction in the
level of absenteeism among programme school pupils.
Community participation: Community food management structures were established in
all programme school communities visited and their capacities built in terms of receipt, storage
and cooking of food. These structures together with school management committees had shown
remarkable interest in programme schools. Food management committees were now issuing food
in many schools as well as supervising the cooking and distribution of meals. The daily presence
of members of these structures on school compounds had put teachers on the alert.
Generating data for school planning: As a result of interventions by CRS/Ghana,
programme schools are required to keep data not only on the food inputs received and how it is
used but also on enrolment, attendance and retention. The data can be exploited for planning
purposes. Teachers and head teachers reported that the data generated and kept at school
facilitated school planning mainly in the area of input requests by the District Education
Directorates.

Lessons from school feeding programmes

Also to consider are lessons derived from the feeding programme, and the lessons include
building programme synergies, institutionalising broad base decision-making, forging effective
stakeholder collaboration/partnership, capacity building for effective partner participation, and
building appropriate structures for programme implementation.
Building programme synergies: The CRS/Ghana school feeding programme articulates a
marriage between the feeding and nutrition and health concerns of school children. This is
because the programme demonstrates a perfect mesh between feeding, micro-nutrients
supplementation, and health and hygiene interventions to address the primary nutrition and
health problems of school age children. Furthermore, CRS/Ghana strategy promotes sectoral and
geographic integration. In some cases, CRS/Ghana solicited non-Title II project funds in order to
deliver programmes according to the integrated logic it pursued. Within the sectoral integration
model, the education component of the programme did not only pursue school feeding and
quality education programmes but also school health programme, which later incorporated a
8

water and sanitation component.

Both the quality education and the water and sanitation

programmes sought to ensure synergy of programmes. In terms of geographic integration,


CRS/Ghana targeted the same districts and communities for its health interventions not only to
optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of programmes but also to ensure a life cycle targeting
of beneficiaries from pregnancy through to school going- age.
Thus the CRS/Ghanas programme demonstrates a complex school feeding targeting
mechanism based on economic, geographic, nutritional status and gender so as to reach families
that lack resources to adequately provide for their school children or those that lacked the
motivation to enrol their children in school and have them attend regularly. The study revealed
that those that fail to attend school when food is not available are mostly pupils in the lower
primary (class 1-3). This therefore adds the level of primary education as another targeting
criterion.
Institutionalising broad base decision making: It emerged from the study that
programme partners and stakeholders did participate in decision making. CRS/Ghana solicits the
views of partners on the selection of project schools, outreach centres, appointment of partner
supervisors, programme teachers, and village level structures and volunteers. In fact, partners
have a final word in some of these issues. CRS also put in place adequate structures for decision
making. An important avenue for decision making involving sectoral partners in health and
education, instituted by CRS/Ghana, was the Bi-annual Review Meetings (BRMs). meant to
review programme implementation by evaluating the successes and constraints over a defined
period. Review meetings were also meant to synthesize proposed activities and plans for the
ensuing year. Although these meetings have, over the years, changed into sectoral/district
specific or annual and quarterly review, in nature, they apparently have proved quite successful.
According to one programme manager, review meetings help to weed out duplications in
interventions between schools and partners and enable partners to situate their activities for the
ensuing period within the overall activity plan of the district or circuit concerned. These
meetings have also increased awareness among key health officers on the nature of interventions
pursued by CRS/Ghana. However, in the education sector things were different.
Forging effective stakeholder collaboration/partnership: In complementing the efforts of
GOGs Poverty Reduction Strategy and the specific sectoral strategies of Ministries,
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Departments and Agencies (MDA) operating in the health, education and social welfare,
CRS/Ghana forged elaborate partnerships (to the extent of even signing MOUs with the MDA)
with the respective departments, ministries and agencies for programme implementation.
Appropriate and elaborate structures for programme implementation and monitoring as well as
decision making, were established. Partner supervisors were appointed at the regional, district
and sub-district or circuit levels for oversight responsibilities and for purposes of problem
solving. School structures were also established in all schools. Partner supervisors are properly
screened to ensure that only qualified and reliable personnel are appointed. Similarly, community
level structures have also been institutionalised at each school community. Food and Community
School Health Management Committees have been established and Parent Teacher Associations
(PTAs) and School Management Committees (SMCs) revamped in all schools to play oversight
roles in ensuring that food is cooked and a child-friendly school environment is cultivated.
CRS/Ghana also forged partnerships with other non-governmental organisations and
multi-lateral organisations operating in the health, education and safety-net sectors in the three
northern regions. Agreements were signed with Opportunities Industrialisation Centres
International (OICI), Water AID/UK and Northern Region Water and Sanitation Programme
(NORWASP) for the provision of boreholes and household latrines in 2005.

Multilateral

agencies CRS/Ghana collaborate with in the school feeding programme include USAID Ghana
mission and USAID FFP office in Washington (which provided funding for the DAP Title II
programme FY2004-08), UNICEF and World Food Programme (WFP). UNICEF has provided
drugs for the de-worming exercise in schools under SHEP since 2005, and has also provided
funding for the Integrated Nutrition Action Against Malnutrition project currently being piloted
in the Lawra, Wa Municipal, Wa East and Wa West districts.
Capacity building for effective partner participation: CRS/Ghana has built the capacity
of its chain of regional, district, sub-district/circuit, centre or school structures in the FFE
programmes in their various oversight and problem-solving roles. Partner-supervisors at the
regional, district and sub-district levels have received training in aspects of community
mobilisation, data collection, reporting, monitoring and supervision while structures at the school
community levels have been trained on how to receive and manage food supplies. Furthermore,
to enhance the mobility of partner-supervisors at the regional and district levels, motor-bikes

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/vehicles, fuel and allowances are provided while FACS centre volunteers at the community
level have been provided bicycles.
Although the working relationships between CRS/Ghana and all its collaborative agencies
could not be assessed during the final evaluation mission, its relationship with sectoral partners
in the health, education and safety-net programmes at the district, school and community levels
was perceived to be challenging through very cordial. A partner supervisor noted that
CRS/Ghanas relationship requires partners to be on their toes always, and delivering the
goods; it has been quite responsive to beneficiary needs.
Building appropriate structures for programme implementation: The school feeding
programme worked with the logistics department which was charged with the responsibility of
managing food distribution to recipient partners. Beneficiary levels and periods of commodity
distribution were set and communicated to partners. Food was transported directly to recipient
organisations or communities. The same department monitors receipt of food and the condition
in which food was received, to ensure compliance and food safety. Once food has been received
it is monitored periodically by the Compliance Department and programme officers to ensure
that storage conditions and regulations for use are upheld. Supervision also provides
backstopping support in cases of lapses and deficiencies. Assessment and checks conducted on
commodity records and tally cards during the field visits showed that records were well kept.
The monitoring process also helped minimise commodity theft and pilfering. Only a few isolated
cases of food theft and pilfering were reported in three sample communities.
Similarly, CRS/Ghana operated an elaborate Management and Information System with
data-gathering responsibility in the hands of sectoral supervisors at the school/centre and district
levels using an Indicator Performance Tracking Table (IPTT) and an Indicator Monitoring Plan
which specified each indicator, the frequency of data collection, tools for data collection and
personnel responsible. The system was supported by a team composed of a programme manager
and monitoring and evaluation officers, responsible for implementing periodic surveys on
programme implementation, data analysis and utilisation at the office in Tamale. An effective
monitoring and supervision system has the advantage of reducing not only theft and pilfering of
food commodities but also spoilage.

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Challenges of school feeding programme

Challenges also constitute important factors to consider in a school feeding programme. In the
current study, the challenges included an upsurge in enrolment figures, ensuring partner
participation, community participation, managing periodic shortage of food in schools, the role
of district assemblies, and motivational constraints.
Upsurge of enrolment: The implementation of the CRS/Ghana school feeding
programme, as well as changes in the national education policy (such as the capitation grant and
the inclusion of pre-schools in the GES portfolio) have led to a surge in enrolment across the
districts. This has had adverse effects on the quality of education because infrastructure, teachers
and supplies are overstretched. One important barrier to education in Ghana has been low
competences due to poor quality education and lack of job opportunities for school leavers.
Ensuring effective partner participation: GES officials were divided over their level of
involvement in the short to medium term planning of programme activities. One group felt they
were not adequately involved in the medium term planning of the school feeding interventions
while the other thought the contrary was true. The view of the former is that CRS/Ghana releases
its planned activities in bits and pieces on an ad hoc basis sometimes resulting in clashes
between CRS/Ghanas planned activities and those of GES. The view of the latter is that,
quarterly plans of CRS/Ghana are agreed upon during review meetings and distributed well
ahead of schedule to all partners. Thus clearly there is a group of GES officials and partner
supervisors that feel less involved in decision making processes or are less aware of the workings
of the CRS/Ghana school feeding interventions. This group may well constitute newly posted
directors and partner supervisors within GES not adequately oriented on the programme. This
problem is also evident in a few schools.
Officials of GES in 50% of the districts visited raised problems around misunderstandings
between GES staff and CRS/Ghana over roles they play on the programme in respect of data
collection, reporting and deadlines. The GES personnel also raised communication constraints in
their relationship with CRS/Ghana. One issue of concern, according to them, was that letters
about impending programmes were often received either very close to the programme date or
shortly after the programme, which created logistical challenges.
Community participation: Community participation is necessary for social mobilization
and for growing community ownership. If adequate steps are not taken to enshrine this in school
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feeding, quality of services are often compromised. In the CRS sponsored SFP, although
communities were expected to provide food supplementation when schools ran out of food,
many school communities were not able to. The few communities that were able to support,
reported they were overstretched after a week or two. In the Saboba Cheriponi and East
Mamprusi districts, three in ten school communities reported to have been able to provide
supplementary feeding to schools on a short term basis. In Bongo and Lawra, parents were not in
a position to provide any supplementary feeding. Similarly, payment of tokens (about 20 Ghana
pesewas per month) as canteen fees initiated by communities to support the purchase of
ingredients and plates is a problem in many school communities. The data revealed there was no
school where parents of pupils were in the position to pay for up to 60% of pupils enrolled. In
about 45% of the school communities visited where payment of canteen fees was reported to be
satisfactory, only about one-half of parents of pupils were estimated to be paying on a regular
basis. To avoid this kind of situation, it would be important to ensure a regular supply of food
and where the community is expected to make a contribution in one form or another, an MOU
should be signed between the school authorities and the beneficiary communities.
Managing periodic shortages of food in schools: There were also reported cases of food
shortages in almost all the districts. In Bongo, Bunkpurugu Yunyoo and Wa West districts, food
shortages were wide spread, while in the other districts, the problem was intermittent. Whereas
no food was received in schools in Bunkpuru Yunyoo districts for the first quarter of 2007/08,
Bongo received no food for the third quarter of the same year. Intermittent food shortages mainly
due to differences between approved beneficiary levels and prevailing school enrolment figures
were reported across all districts in over one-half (54%) of the surveyed schools. There were also
reported cases of unwholesome food, particularly the soya blend received during the second
quarter of 2007/08.
The need to formally engage District Assemblies as hub of school feeding programmes:
It was observed that although district assemblies are the hub through which local development
efforts revolve under the decentralisation programme, CRS/Ghana failed to engage DAs
formally, as strategic partners in its districts of operation, even though some DAs, particularly
Wa East and Wa West, have provided complementary funding to CRS/Ghanas interventions in
Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) and other projects, and CRS/Ghana
programme personnel worked closely with lower level district structures such as assembly
13

persons, WATSAN and unit committees at the community levels. CRS/Ghana has since realised
its initial mistake and has placed DAs at the forefront of its exit strategy.
Motivational constraints: Motivational problems were also reported among stakeholders
of the district, school and community levels. For instance, teachers at programme schools think
they were overburdened with extra responsibilities for which no material or pecuniary motivation
is given. Similarly, community level structures such as food management committees and cooks
complained of being overburdened with work for which no motivation was provided. Even
though communities agreed to support their structures on the programme, very few are in a
position to offer meaningful support. This therefore brings to the fore the role school teachers
and other partners are willing to play in school feeding programmes on voluntary basis.

Sustainability issues in the school feeding programme

A number of sustainability factors also emerged from the study and these worthy of
consideration. We discuss each of these issues in the paragraphs that follow.
Community exit strategies integral to programme implementation: The data show that
there is need to pursue a conscious sustainable policy at the onset of a school feeding
programme. In the case of CRS/Ghana, a sensitisation programme was embarked upon as part of
its exit strategy. This started prior to the implementation of the 2005 programme and assumed a
higher gear in 2007 and 2008. As a result, beneficiary awareness of CRS/Ghanas exit strategy
was high at the point of exit. In the educational sector for example, almost all regional, district
and school level partner-supervisors indicated they were aware of CRS/Ghanas intention to exit
from the school feeding and related activities by September 2008. Even school pupils and
community level structures indicated their awareness of the pending exit, except that the precise
date of exit had still not been indicated to some groups or individuals.
A suggestion has been made that in order to ensure SFPs are more sustainable, they
should be made comprehensive, so that they do much more than deliver food to children. For
example, SFPs could incorporate efforts to increase local food production, food processing and
livestock rearing (Hicks, 1996). The evaluation team investigated the potential of communities to
continue with the SFP initiative but using local resources. From the perspective of the individual
beneficiary, the sustainable aspect of the programme was likely to be the lasting impact on
behaviour change brought about through accessing education or other interventions that are part
14

of the programme (Becker et al., 1993; Glasgow et al., 1999). We therefore considered the
possibility of children going to school when the SFP officially ended.
Timing of exit from school or area: Although the level of awareness of the exit of
CRS/Ghana from Title II Development Assistance school interventions is quite high overall, the
same cannot be said about the number of beneficiaries who understood the timing. The question
beneficiaries often asked was why the intended pull out after so many years of school feeding in
northern Ghana. A related question often asked was why now, when the GSFP is incapable of
supporting all the needy schools? In the absence of satisfactory answers to the above questions,
some stakeholders, even highly placed ones, appeared to be extremely concerned and even
emotional about the exit. One of such partners had this to say, The exit will drastically reduce
enrolment in schools in the north. It is ill informed and a ploy to widen the educational gap
between the north and the south. People of northern descent should resist it fully and squarely.
The few programme beneficiaries who seem to understand the logic behind the exit argue
that it was time this mass feeding programme was dismembered. In the view of one subscribing
to this position, CRS/Ghana fed us when we were school children, is feeding our children
currently and we still want CRS/Ghana to feed our grand children in the future. How can this
mass feeding thing be expected to go forever? This perhaps is an expression of frustration and
the need for CRS/Ghana and the beneficiaries to sort out a sustainable exit strategy out of its
present mass feeding initiative. Many well placed beneficiaries and partners concurred it was
about time people in the north set their priorities right. However, the Ghanaian governments
recently introduced school feeding interventions as well as interventions pursued by some NGOs
and multilateral agencies in selected districts in northern Ghana in particular, have confused
issues concerning the phasing out of CRS/Ghanas school feeding interventions.
A case for school/community exit plans: Despite the emotions and sensations about the
pending exit, not all beneficiaries have folded their hands. In most areas, beneficiary partners
supervisors, schools and communities have designed plans to mitigate the pending exit. Ninety
(90%) percent of the school communities had reportedly prepared exit-strategy plans. In the
Bongo district, plans drawn by schools and communities focus on income generation activities
such as collection of sheanut and stones for sale, and establishment of community and school
farms to produce food stuff and vegetables. In the East Mamprusi and Saboba Cheriponi
districts, community and school farms in addition to food stuff contribution after harvest, are
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proposed. In Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo, the majority of school communities intend to contribute food


stuff after harvest and establish community farms. Those communities without exit plans
indicated that they were still planning to meet to build consensus on what should be done.
A case for pragmatic/realistic exit plans: GES officials and partner supervisors indicated
that they planned to continue to facilitate the preparation and implementation of school and
community exit plans but were sceptical about the capability of schools and communities to
generate enough foodstuff and resources to feed school children on a sustainable basis. The
general perception within GES was that considering the magnitude of resources required for
feeding a school - foodstuff, vehicles, logistics and personnel - the programme cannot be
sustained without donor support after the pull out of CRS/Ghana. This view was echoed by a
well placed GES official when asked how they thought the gains from the CRS/Ghanas school
feeding interventions could be sustained. We are looking up to the government and donors to
fill the void that CRS/Ghanas exit creates. This response apparently was in references to the
governments school feeding programme which targets two schools per district and school
feeding interventions pursued by NGOs and multilateral donors such as Wold Vision, SNV and
the World Food Programme which operate in some of the districts in northern Ghana.
Based on past experience of community supplementations to CRS/Ghanas school feeding
programme, a GES official perceives exit-strategy-plans pursued by communities merely as
enhanced supplementary intervention plans because they cannot stand entirely on their own.
This view brings to the fore the need for a major donorcum enhanced community
supplementation approach to school feeding in the future.
The evaluation team shares the above view. Assuming the exit strategy requires school
communities to shoulder the entire food requirements for feeding their pupils for the three terms
in the school year, then no school community, whether located in relatively endowed districts
such as Wa East, Bunkprugu Yunyoo and Saboba Cheriponi or in less endowed districts as
Lawra and Bongo, would be in the position to cater for the food needs of its school pupils
entirely.
Partner capacity building initiatives: CRS/Ghana also believes that the benefits of
increased enrolment and retention can be sustained through its capacity building interventions for
GES officials, circuit supervisors, head teachers and teachers. However, the surge in enrolment
in primary schools across the districts surveyed, coupled with increased attrition of teachers from
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programme schools through transfers, the capacity building efforts embarked upon by
CRS/Ghana were being eroded in programme districts and schools. And this was impacting
negatively on teaching and learning outcomes of pupils and if the situation was not arrested,
could wane parents motivation to send children to school.
The need for clear and concise exit strategy: Interactions with the various stakeholders
seemed to suggest that the phase-out or exit-strategy of CRS/Ghana had not been well
understood by a majority of beneficiaries and the various stakeholders: communities, partner
supervisors, GES officials and assembly members. It is the view of many that sustaining the
gains of CRS/Ghanas interventions during phase-out or exit in some cases, would mean
ensuring that food was available for school-feeding or rations. Sustainability is interpreted to
exclude social mobilisation and community participation efforts geared towards enrolment and
retention drives, and interventions touching on sustaining education quality. This narrow
perception or in some cases, misunderstanding of the exit-strategy pursued, blurs the search for
credible but simple interventions that communities could pursue with limited external support.

Conclusion

The empirical data show that school feeding programmes have the potential to stimulate
enrolment and retention of children, particularly the girl child, and to improve the academic
outcomes of children depending on the nature of the programme mix: how the programme blends
feeding with nutritional and health needs of children on the one hand and the nature of targeting
mechanisms on the other, so as to reach deprived families and school children. The CRS/Ghana
School feeding programme demonstrates a good marriage of feeding, nutritional and health
concerns of deprived school children. It also demonstrates a complex targeting mechanism
determined by economic, geographic, gender and nutritional status of school children in order to
cover deprived and needy families.
The findings also show that partner participation is integral to programme success and
may be enhanced through the institutionalisation of structures for partner participation and
capacity building. However, implementing an effective school feeding programme has important
practical challenges. For example, how to manage an upsurge in enrolment levels, with the

17

concomitant demand for school room space, textbooks and trained teachers to ensure quality
education, and enlisting and sustaining community participation and partner motivation.
It must be noted that school feeding programmes constitute a huge investment that cannot
be sustained forever, given resource scarcity. As a result conscious efforts have to be made to
incorporate pull-out mechanisms or forge alliances with local communities, districts and partners
to supplement resources towards making programmes sustainable.

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