Continuing my occasional series on World Cup countries and their school feeding programs, I touch down in Ghana, which plays Uruguay today in what will no doubt be an exciting quarterfinal match.
The only African nation still in the World Cup (and a soccer team that really knows how to get down and celebrate—check out the team dancing and singing yesterday in preparation for today’s match!), Ghana is also a leader in school feeding on the continent.
Ghana boasts what it calls a “home-grown” program. Not only is it run (and partly funded) by the Ghanaian government, it puts an emphasis on the use of locally produced food. Indeed, supporting agriculture—as well as reducing malnutrition and increasing school attendance—is one of the program’s stated goals.
Starting in 2005 with 10 pilot schools, the Ghana School Feeding Program has increased to provide close to 1 million of the country’s most disadvantaged primary school children with a hot meal made from locally produced food.
It hasn’t been without problems: in 2007, the Dutch government, a major funding partner, suspended all support following an auditor’s report showing “massive financial malfeasance, managerial impropriety and bad procurement practices.” Eeek. Their support, however, was renewed in 2009 after Ghana got the program back on track.
The World Food Program is also a partner, and WFP country director, Ismail Omer, told an interviewer that his team has seen visible improvements in children’s health and general well-being as a result of the meals offered at school. He explains:
“My favourite reference is from Rashidatu, a class 6 pupil in Our Lady of Peace Primary School in Bimbilla, who recounts several instances in the past when children collapsed out of weakness during morning school assembly. She insists that since the school feeding program started, these incidents have almost entirely stopped.”
A typical school meal provided by WFP in Ghana is a thick porridge made of wheat and soy mixed with oil. Not enough to fuel one of the Black Stars in today’s match, perhaps, but a good start for a primary school student.