School milk programmes are vital for promoting education and nourishment in East Africa. These initiatives encourage families, particularly the most disadvantaged, to send their sons and particularly their daughters to school. These programmes ensure that children in school receive proper nourishment for effective learning. The impact of school feeding extends to education, health, inclusivity and local economies. The return on investment for every dollar invested in school feeding is estimated at $3 to $9 in economic return.
The parent-paid school feeding approach
The parent-paid school milk approach leverages parental investment in children's nutrition to enhance school attendance, learning readiness and diet diversity. It also benefits local farmers through increased market demand, offering a sustainable solution for school meals with stable budgets and enduring commitment.
In low-income countries, only 18% of primary school children are enrolled in centralized school feeding programmes, and this number did not recover after the COVID-19 pandemic. In East Africa, the percentage of primary school children benefiting from school feeding varies from 0% to 26%, depending on the country. While parents typically provide food for their children, there is a need for more comprehensive support.
Parent-paid school milk approach
The parent-paid approach builds on parents’ investment in their child’s nutrition, and this investment can be stimulated, grown and organized. In so doing, the approach will better attract pupils to school, ensure they are ready to learn, deliver better nutrition and diet diversification and allow local farmers to benefit from this new market.
In Uganda, The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise Project (TIDE, SNV) introduced a parent-paid school milk programme. Parents pay for the milk consumed by their children, creating a sustainable funding source. The project kick-started adoption through initial incentives and grants for schools that achieved enrolment milestones. Over 300,000 students in almost 1,000 schools have benefited from the programme, which has generated over USD $2 million for dairy farmers and the local economy.
In Ethiopia, Building Rural Income through Inclusive Dairy Business Growth in Ethiopia (BRIDGE) used a subsidy approach due to milk quality and affordability concerns. Probiotic yoghurt was prioritized, and parents gradually assumed the cost after an initial period. Positive outcomes, including improved health, nutrition and academic performance, were observed.
Future outlook and next steps
Looking ahead, the parent-paid model for school feeding shows promise and is being explored in other East African countries. In Tanzania, where malnutrition rates are high, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries aims to increase access to dairy products in schools. NEADAP’s experience from Uganda continues to inform the pilot and adoption of the parent-paid model in Tanzania. In Kenya, various school meal and milk initiatives exist, some government and donor-led and others paid for by parents. The Kenya Dairy Board is interested in parent-paid school milk but requires further analysis. Similarly, there’s interest from the World Food Programme in Burundi and regional processors. This highlights the potential for expanding successful school feeding initiatives.
The parent-paid model is a valuable supplement to our existing ASAS Dairies Ltd. school milk initiatives. The model could help us expand the programmes reach to more schools and families, as well as improve the programme quality and ensure its long-term viability. This model has the potential to improve the health and well-being of children in our community. (Mohamed Ally, ASAS Dairies CSR manager)
In East Africa, school feeding initiatives are transforming education, nutrition and local economies. NEADAP highlights the sustainability of the parent-paid model and explores ways to integrate it with other funding sources to achieve broader outreach and inclusiveness.
Interested in School milk program in East Africa?
Please contact our solution leads Pascal Debons (WUR) at email@example.com or Frederick Kizito (SNV) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Communication officer NEADAP