School Nutrition Initiative
SCHOOL NUTRITION INITIATIVE
The National Nutritional Policy of Liberia states as their number one guiding principle:
“Adequate food, health and care for the vulnerable are universal human rights and primary to ensuring nutritional wellbeing for a full and active life of dignity for all human beings. The Government of Liberia acknowledges the role of nutrition as a precondition for sustainable social, economic and human development.”
The SNI relies on a holistic and realistic approach to community-based programming, making use of local resources, expertise, and achieving sustainability by making community ownership a central tenet of the initiative.
The overarching objective of the SNI is to improve food security and the nutritional status of children by assisting communities to implement their own school feeding program and providing capacity-building support to empower community leaders to effectively steer the initiative.
- Work with public schools in rural areas to help develop and implement a sustainable, cost-effective, locally-led school feeding program, providing one nutritious meal per day to school children
- Encourage good nutrition practices and healthy living for children and communities working with SNI
- Support a community-based approach to dealing with child malnutrition, by relying on local expertise and resources as well as by engaging community members in the program
- Promote local agricultural development by working with participating communities in developing and managing productive farms and gardens
- Support community development through targeted workshops and capacity-building (key areas of focus: financial management; nutrition, health & hygiene; program management; proposal development; sustainable agricultural practices)
Impact of a daily meal
- Allows the student to focus in class, thereby increasing learning capacity, and, ultimately, the quality of education
- Proven to increase school attendance and enrollment, especially for girls
- Relieves some of the pressure felt by families to provide food to their dependents on a daily basis
- A daily meal also has the long-term benefit of preventing illness due to malnutrition, which enhances the overall quality of life of a child, as well as helps to prevent situations where families cannot afford medical treatment.
Aligning our objectives with Government priorities
- Child Health & Nutrition: Specific goals of the National Nutrition Policy of Liberia that are addressed by The Niapele Project’s School Nutrition Initiative are to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition including micronutrient deficiencies, to reduce the morbidity and effects of the double burden of malnutrition via susceptibility to other illnesses that encumber the struggling health care system, and to promote appropriate diet and lifestyles.
- Food Security & Agricultural Development: Issues of food security in Liberia are addressed through to our program’s focus on building local agricultural capacity at the community level. Niapele-supported community farms produce both food for the feeding program, as well as cash crops to be sold on the market to generate income to support each community's School Nutrition Initiative work.
Niapele's School Nutrition Initiative: History & Evolution
This initiative is the result of five years of expertise in developing and implementing school feeding programs in Liberian communities.
In 2007, The Niapele Project and community-based organization VAAFD identified child malnutrition as a critical issue among the students of the Carolyn A. Miller School, in the Buduburam refugee settlement in Ghana. Niapele and VAAFD collaboratively designed an intervention to address this issue.
In 2007-2008, the School Nutrition Initiative operated by The Niapele Project and VAAFD in the Buduburam refugee settlement proved to be a great tool in increasing attendance – both overall and for individual children, in addition to reducing severe malnutrition rates.
In September of 2009, CAMES Liberia opened in Paynesville, Liberia and welcomed nearly 600 students as a tuition-free school. Several teachers and staff members from the refugee camp made the move to CAMES Liberia, even some of the students from Ghana are now in attendence. As is the case with most of Liberia, there is extreme poverty in the area and students, teachers and staff, experience hunger on a daily basis.
The Niapele Project completed an assessment of needs and projected costs for relaunching the much needed School Nutrition Program in Liberia. A grant from the GO campaign covered the one time start-up expense of $2,000. This grant financed everything needed to initiate the program, including benches and tables for the cafeteria space as well as stoves, pots, pans, bowls, spoons and water storage.
While in Ghana, Niapele purchased food for the SNI from the local market - this allowed for efficient programming, as Liberians' refugee status made it difficult for them to access any farm land. Niapele's approach to school nutrition evolved once we began operations in Liberia, when we were able to source food for the program from a local women’s agricultural co-op, Malaya. Through our purchase agreement with Malaya, we ensure that each meal served to the children of the Carolyn A. Miller School also contributes to supporting local agricultural production, as well as providing a much needed steady income for the women of Malaya.
Since 2009, as part of our monitoring & evaluation efforts, Niapele works with a nutritionist from the University of Liberia and her students to certify meal composition, perform regular impact assessments and promote nutrition in the Carolyn A. Miller community.