On 18 and 19 October 2023, the first meeting of the Global School Meals Coalition is taking place in Paris. Launched in 2021 by the World Food Programme (WFP) with the support of France and Finland, this coalition aims to offer every child in the world access to the necessary school meals by 2030, to enable them to learn and grow.
Last week, Paris hosted the first meeting of the School Meals Coalition.
— France Diplomacy🇫🇷🇪🇺 (@francediplo_EN) November 1, 2023
Among the 349 million people in the world at high risk of food insecurity, 153 million are children or young people. While school meals play a key role in addressing this emergency, they also help meet all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
School meals provide children access to healthcare, water and nutrition by offering them healthy food. It also enhances access to education by prolonging school attendance and fostering learning, as well as gender equality.
Providing school meals also means jobs are created. In many countries, this sector is biggest state expense on food, and can thereby foster local agricultural development by offering producers visibility and stability regarding demand.
School meals can lay the groundwork for sustainable food systems, at a time when these systems account for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels raises the cost of agricultural production. Promoting sustainable agricultural methods, short supply chain models and anti-waste practices must be supported globally.
Today, the School Meals Coalition brings together 87 Member States, and the European Union and African Union. Naturally inclusive, the coalition also brings together some 100 partners from different horizons (scientific institutions, foundations, NGOs, UN entities, and municipalities, for example). The conference on 18 and 19 October 2023 offers an opportunity to hear the voices of actors on the ground who work daily to make school meals a reality, and local communities are leading the charge.
The coalition is also a testament to the success of partnerships in tackling common challenges. Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of schools deprived many children of school meals, and today 30 million additional children receive school meals in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, amounting to 418 million children in total. Similarly, the percentage of public financing for school meals in low-income countries has increased from around 30% in 2020 to 45% in 2022, despite shrinking fiscal space caused by multiple crises.
As food insecurity worsens around the world due to the effects of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and inflation is growing in many countries, we need everyone to get involved to ensure that all children have access to sufficient healthy and good-quality food.
France is fully playing its part in this global effort. At the national level, France set a goal of having 50% of the products served in schools be sustainable products with a quality label, including 20% from organic farming. It has also made it compulsory to have a vegetarian menu every week, and is experimenting with a daily vegetarian option when possible.
In international forums, France supports access to school meals everywhere in the world. In 2022, France invested more than €28 million in school meal programmes through projects implemented by the WFP. For example, it provided €13 million in support for Afghan school canteens when the Taliban seized Kabul, and carries out work in Algeria, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lebanon, the Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. France also finances the Secretariat of the School Meals Coalition, hosted by the WFP (€3.5 million since its inception in 2021).
This contribution for school meals is part of French and European overall efforts focused on global food security and in support of our most affected partners, including those who are suffering the consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
In 2022, France mobilized nearly €920 million in solidarity investments and humanitarian aid to bolster food security. In 2023, this figure will be close to €1 billion. France has also nearly tripled its contribution to the WFP and is one of its main contributors. It also supported the EU’s creation of solidarity corridors, which enabled 50 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products to be exported, and financed the transfer of these foodstuffs to countries most in need (delivery of grain to Somalia and Yemen and soon to Sudan and Nigeria, delivery of fertilizers to Africa).
On 17 September 2023, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, announced an additional €40 million for the WFP, which will support the Ukrainian agricultural system and the most vulnerable countries.
Updated: October 2023