Food-based social protection programmes and school gardens Prof. Dr.

Willem VAN COTTHEM University of Ghent (Belgium)
To my sincere satisfaction and pleasure I learned from the UNNews-message (New York, Jul 27 2010, 1:05PM): UN AGENCY CHIEF PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR AFRICA¶S EFFORTS TO BOOST FOOD SECURITY that WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, at the African Union summit in Kampala, has stressed the many benefits offered by food-based social protection programmes. She stated: 'When designed right, social protection programmes such as school meals, food-foreducation and food-for-work are foundations for not just beating hunger and malnutrition, but also drivers for agricultural development and faster economic growth.' She also said that: 'Food-based social protection programmes can be one of the largest and most reliable purchasers from smallholder farmers', and added 'They help create community infrastructure such as roads, irrigation, food processing and storage connecting farmers to markets. They help ensure that farmers and others benefit from the food supply chain so food reaches the people who need it most.' WFP buys surplus from local farmer's organizations for its aid operations, helping to boost agricultural production and incomes, thus transforming the lives of smallholder families. All this is fantastic news. WFP deserves our full appreciation. However, speaking about food-based social protection programmes, I keep wondering why so little attention is paid to the role school gardens can play in the combat of hunger and child malnutrition. Taking into account successes booked with small kitchen gardens, even in the driest places on earth, the layout of school gardens could become one of the strongest tools. Indeed, fresh food produced at school by the children themselves would not only contribute to their health and physical condition, but also be one of the best educational strategies. One can easily understand that school meals, food-for-education and food-for-work are foundations for beating hunger and malnutrition. If school meals, offered through a social protection programme, contribute to beat hunger and malnutrition of school children, why don't we envisage to offer the children a chance to produce some of that food themselves, in 'their own garden'? I keep wondering why, because all those children could not only 'benefit from the food supply chain', but also learn how to be food self-sufficient and how to contribute to food security and to building better lives. This seems to be for children the foundation not only for helping to beat hunger and malnutrition, but also a driver for educational development towards new opportunities in their lives.

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