The 2022 school year has come to a close in Mozambique, and once again we have seen just how much the school lunch program makes a difference in keeping kids in school and helping them learn.
This year, the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative served 336,800 nutritious lunches across seven primary schools in rural communities. Each of these meals was prepared from scratch and served hot to each student during lunch time. Most of the beans and vegetables in the school lunch were grown directly in the local communities, generating income for small-scale farmers, most of them women. For each child, the school lunch was the biggest and most nutritious meal they eat each day. Importantly, it was also consistent, something they can count on each day. Given that these children live in very vulnerable situations and often don't know what they'll have to eat at home, providing a reliable source of good food at school is an anchor in an otherwise unpredictable environment. Sometimes, when we're visiting the schools, we'll ask the kids what their favorite meal is at school. Top of the list is usually beans and rice, and chicken stew. But the kids also love the orange sweet potatoes and beets that are served as side dishes, packing extra nutrition into the meal.
One of the things we love to see is the energy and joy of the kids at school. The teachers ensure that they are organized and calm in the lunch line, but after eating they are usually running all over the school yard, playing games with their friends. The visible happiness of the kids at school is truly a joy to see.
For us, ensuring kids have the nutrition they need to grow and learn is a critical basic need, and provides the foundation for that child to grow up and live a more healthy and productive life.
For example, one of our students, Paula, at Duvane Primary School, always shows up to school with a grin on her face, carrying her plate in hand, and ready for lunch. She lives close to school, in a small house with her grandmother, who depends on a small farm to get by. She started school in 2019, and has been able to count on a delicious school lunch every year for the last four years. This has made a big difference for her school journey, and has provided a safety net when her grandmother's farm didn't quite produce enough to make it through the lean season.
We also have to give an important acknowledgement to our school cooks, who go above and beyond to make sure that the school lunch is ready on time every day. This starts with hauling gallons of water, lighting a fire, chopping vegetables, and boiling huge bots of rice and beans. These women are very dedicated to the school lunch program, and we celebrate them at the end of the year with a special Christmas basket of foods for their holiday festivities.
Thank you for making all of this work happen in Mozambique. With the generous donations of our supporters, we are able to provide this dependable source of good food for schoolchildren in rural Mozambique. Each meal makes a difference, so thank you for being part of our journey!
1,684. This is the number of school lunches the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative has served to primary school students each day this year. Each one of these children shows up to school counting on our program each day, knowing they’ll get a hearty meal when they go to school.
Why is this important? Because...“Nothing destroys potential as savagely as hunger.Malnourished children are less able to concentrate and absorb information. They are also more likely to drop out of school, partly because they are not learning – and partly because poverty pushes them into work and child marriage.” This article from the Guardian describes exactly the situation we see in Mozambique, and is the driving motive behind our school lunch program.
Funding school lunch programs actually have an incredibly high return on investment. According to an analysis by the World Food Program, for every $1 invested in school meals, communities receive $9 in economic returns. How is this so?
Broadly speaking there are five pathways whereby school lunch programs generate positive returns:
For all of these reasons, we are incredibly grateful for your generous support. We see the benefit the school lunch program has in the lives of the children we serve every day. We hope you feel connected and inspired by the impact of your donation.
Greetings from Mozambique!
Thanks to your support, we have been serving school lunches every day across seven rural primary schools in Mozambique. These lunches are packed with vital nutrients and are helping children have the fuel they need to grow and learn. We also source as much food as possible from local farmers, which means that the meals are full of fresh ingredients and are also benefiting the local economy.
For a lot of these kids, the school lunch is the most nutritious meal they will eat each day. In fact, we intentionally chose to work in communities with high rates of vulnerable children -- children who are orphans or are living under the poverty line. Each day in the field, we see the excitement of the kids who come to school, knowing that they will get a great lunch at noon. This kind of dependability is essential, as it provides a critical safety net for kids who face hunger at home. Your support allows us to consistently serve these meals and support the education of the students. This year we have 1,665 students in our school lunch program. That's a lot of meals every day, but we have plans to grow further, as there are many more students in rural students across Mozambique who could benefit. That is why spreading the word about our project is so important, and we are thankful for your contributions and advocacy. Serving the most vulnerable in Mozambique is indeed a difference that you can make, even from thousands of miles away. As Mozambicans commonly say, "estamos juntos" or "we're together"!
As always, we are also grateful for your support in making this work happen! We are also thankful for the incredible team in Mozambique, including the management staff, the cooks, the preschool teachers, the mentors, the farmers, and everybody who contributes along the way.
Happy Holidays from Mozambique!
As we reflect on 2021, we are so grateful to have had tremendous support to provide more school meals than ever. We served school lunches to 1,858 primary school students across seven schools, and in the second half of 2021 we also managed to extend our program to two new community preschools as well, bringing the nutritional and educational benefits to almost 200 younger kids.
Teachers told us time and time again that the school lunch program really helped bring kids back to school after the pandemic interruptions of 2020. It was always a joy to see the students running to the lunch line every day at noon. We are happy to be able to provide something that the kids can count on each day. We also take great pride in serving high-quality and delicious food, meals that we would happily serve our own children. Each day the cooks prepare hot meals using fresh and nutritious ingredients, bean stews with vegetables, peanut curry, and chicken, often served with a side of orange sweet potatoes and beets!
What's more, since we buy as much food as possible directly from local farmer groups, we have also been able to further the impact of our resources to generate income for families in the community. By working with the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative, these farmers are able to access improved inputs like tractor services, irrigation, and better seeds, all of which helps them increase their production so they have more to sell to the school lunch program. It is a win-win strategy, and a core part of our approach to reducing hunger and alleviating poverty in rural Mozambique.
All of this work is a team effort. The leadership team, cooks, teachers, and farmers are always in communication, constantly coordinating all of the pieces necessary to ensure that the kids get the meals they deserve. That's why, ever since we started serving school lunches in 2016, we haven't missed a single school day. The generous donations from our supporters make our work on the ground possible, and we thank you for being part of our effort to ensure children have the nutrition they need to grow and learn.
1,858 -- that's the number of school lunches served daily by the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative this year. Each morning, the cooks rise early and start boiling water, chopping vegetables, and measuring pounds of beans to prepare the school lunches. With their dedication and consistency, we are very proud to ensure that kids have a school lunch every school day without fail. The lunches are served hot, and are prepared from fresh ingredients, many of which come from the local farmers in the surrounding village. We care about kids' nutrition, and we care about doing things right.
Due to the ongoing hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the school lunch program continues to provide an important safety net for kids who might otherwise face hunger or malnutrition. They might also not attend school as frequently, jeoporadizing their education and their long-term future. Instead, what we've seen with the school lunch program is record attendance rates. We are hopeful that this enthusiasm for learning will help kids recover from some of the lost schooling of 2020.
In addition, over the last several months, we have seen record production from our farmer groups, who have been harvesting and selling beans, tomatoes, kale, beets, and onions. All of these foods go straight into the school lunches. This means that for every donation, there is a double impact: it buys school meals for students and it provides income for farmers. That's a win-win from our perspective!
Lately, we have also been very encouraged by the support we've received from the local communities where we work. For example, a women's farmer cooperative in Bombofo village harvested and donated, free of charge, cassava and collard greens to feed more than 300 students at their local primary school. In another community, Chate A, the community pooled together resources to buy the materials for and build a small storage shed and kitchen for their schools' lunch program. These instances reinforce the community-oriented focus we take at MSLI, and makes us feel that we're all in this effort together. Thank YOU for being part of that effort as well!
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