News: 19 cents to feed a child for a day.

Update March 2008: For the sake of precision: due to the recent fuel and food price increase, the cost to feed a child per day is now 25 cents.

I received a lot of queries about the 19 cents it costs to feed a child a day. Here is some background info:

1/ Question: Part of what programme does that figure come from?
Answer: That figure comes from the WFP School Feeding Programme. As much as 'feeding the hungry' is a short term solution to the 'hunger issue', 'proper education' is one of the pillars for a longer term solution to the problem of poverty (and 'hunger' as a result of it).
To encourage kids to come to school in developing countries, WFP provides them with a free meal.

2/ Question: How is the figure calculated. It can not be that low, can it?
I asked a WFP expert. Here is her...
It is an average that was calculated in 2000, by simply taking all that WFP spent on school feeding programs by country and dividing it by the number of beneficiaries and then by an estimated average number of school days per year (we used 180). It was across all countries and all types of school feeding (just school breakfast or snacks, just school lunches, two meals a day/breakfast + lunch, boarding school meals of three meals per day, and/or take-home rations which may be provided as the only WFP input, or may be combined with one of the meals described).
Depending on the country, the costs actually varied from about 6 cents a day up to about a dollar a day. [Note: At the same point in history, the U.S. public school lunch program cost about $2.12 per day, but of course the meals were much more sophisticated and varied than the WFP-provided school meals.]

Since 2000, WFP has:
- almost doubled the number of beneficiaries
- improved our reporting systems and calculations, and added some parts of the "essential package" (especially micronutrient fortification, de-worming and HIV/AIDS prevention education) everywhere we can.

So the food cost per day has actually dropped a bit (due to economies of scale and more accurate accounting), but we have maintained the 19 cents per day in order to ensure that we are responsibly addressing those essential elements that WFP can implement (as strongly recommended by our donors, school feeding and education experts and others).

3/ Question: What does that US$0.19 per day buy? What 'meal' are the children given?
Again, I asked a WFP expert. Her
Answer: School meals vary dramatically from one country to the next, but the WFP component generally consists of:
- a grain-based and fortified flour such as Corn-Soy Blend (CSB) or Wheat-Soy Blend (WSB) along with oil, sugar and/or salt. Those basic components can be used for a nutritious drink or porridge; or
- a staple grain (such as rice, sorghum or millet) along with "condiments" (oil, sugar and/or salt), to which the community adds the ingredients for a sauce; or fortified biscuits (baked in either a "salty" or a "sweet" form to accommodate local taste preferences).

Take-home rations are included in these calculations, and they consist of one or more food items (usually one) which is of significant value in that location. So in Pakistan, it is a can of cooking oil, in another country it is a bag of wheat or corn, etc.. Take-home rations are economic incentives for the family to send their child/children to school and generally are given monthly or quarterly to students who have maintained good school attendance. We do not require that the child him/herself eat that food. That is why take-home rations are sometimes combined with in-school meals. The take-home rations serve as the economic incentive for the parents to send the child to school/offset the loss of the child's labor at home, but a nutritious school meal is required to ensure that the child is not hungry and has enough energy to learn.
WFP has found take-home rations to be an extremely effective method of increasing school enrolment and attendance of girls and child laborers (in food-insecure locations where girls are not attending school or where child labor is a particular problem), and we have been also been having good results with take-home rations combined with school meals for children from households affected by HIV/AIDS and other particularly vulnerable children.

4/ Question: Does the 19 cents per day include the overhead, the transport, etc..
Answer: Yes, the US$0.19/day includes the total cost. The food itself, the cost to the organisation to deliver the food, manage the process, the cost to monitor the school feeding system ensuring the food gets where it supposed to go, etc...

Still interested in more?
Here you find all background material.

For updated humanitarian news, check out The Other World News


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