United Nations (UN) agencies have announced their strong support for an international coalition aiming to rapidly improve the nutrition, health and education of school-age children around the world following pandemic-driven school closures.
In a joint declaration, five agencies committed to assisting the School Meals Coalition, a grouping of more than 60 countries led by France and Finland, whose vision is to give every child in need the opportunity to receive a nutritious meal in school by 2030. The coalition is also committed to ‘smart’ school meals programmes, which combine regular meals in school with complementary health and nutrition interventions for children’s growth and learning.
Each of the five UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNICEF, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), will bring a specific set of expertise to the coalition. More than 50 partners, including NGOs, civil society, foundations and other organizations have said they will also provide support.
The coalition will work to restore the school meals and other health and nutrition programmes that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic, expand these to reach 73 million children who were not covered before COVID-19, and raise their quality in part by establishing standards and linking them to local food production where possible.