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Borelli, Hunter, Manjella, Wasike. School Food Revolution: Evaluating opportunities for further research

  • Published on May 23, 2022

Despite the many barriers and challenges to better integration of food biodiversity for school meals, the opportunities to explore this issue are favourable. The IPES-Food (2016) From Uniformity to Diversity report highlights sustainable and healthy sourcing of underutilized food biodiversity as an opportunity for both home-grown school feeding programmes and public procurement programmes. The 2016 Global Panel Foresight Report, Food Systems and Diets: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century, in highlighting its 10 priority actions to effect diet change draws attention to the need to institutionalize high-quality diets through public sector purchasing power including food provided in schools, which should be of the highest dietary benefit. The Global Panel has also produced a policy brief calling for greater policy emphasis on the multiple-win agenda that couples meals in schools with benefits to agriculture, education and nutrition and summarises knowledge, evidence and successes. The 2014 Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) stresses that healthy diets should be fostered in preschools and schools in its Rome Declaration, supported by a number of relevant recommendations on diversification of food systems and diets in school settings. In fact, recommendation 23 calls for the improvement of diets through better access to food, which conforms to the beliefs, culture, traditions, dietary habits and preferences of individuals. Finally, the 2016 Global Nutrition Report highlights that schools also provide a huge opportunity to reset norms about healthful diets and good nutrition practices.

It was identification of this opportunity, and shortcoming, that initial efforts, supported by ACIAR, commenced in 2014 in Busia County, Western Kenya, to test how schools might offer stable markets for smallholder farmers practicing sustainable agriculture and increase demand for local food biodiversity. The initial SRA (HORT/2014/100) successfully developed a viable and replicable pilot to connect production and consumption of local edible biodiversity and established an enabling environment in the county for a workable food procurement model that puts local food biodiversity at its core and which can potentially be rolled out in other locations. This current (SRA GP/2017/007) was developed in order to help identify ongoing barriers and challenges and research questions pertinent to the rolling out of this pilot model to other locations as the types of capacity and partners required to support this.

With this in mind SRA GP/2017/007 set itself the goal to build upon the existing work by reviewing the lessons learned from the initial pilot study, defining key knowledge gaps and the likely constraints and opportunities relating to extending this procurement model to diverse situations - elsewhere in Kenya and in other East African countries - and building the partnerships to support this wider research. These key results across the three objectives are described in detail, as are the preliminary scientific, capacity, social, economic and environmental impacts. Efforts to highlight these findings and impacts are also described.

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