With two days to spare in Dar es Salaam, we met with a number of experts working in the food and nutrition sectors. They included staff from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, and an advisor to the government of Tanzania.
Through these discussions, two challenges came to light. The first was the difficulty – even for large multilateral organizations like the WFP – of funding and managing school meal programs at a national scale. According to the WFP, approximately one-third of all primary schools in Tanzania currently have operating school meal programs. It is especially challenging to reach remote regions such as Mbola, the Millennium Village that TFT supports.
The second challenge is to provide a nutritionally balanced school meal within budget constraints, while considering the local culture and preferences. There are many ways to provide nutritional supplementation to school meals, including the fortification of ingredients, or by adding “sprinkles” to the meal. Another option is to provide greater diet diversity through school gardens. There are pros and cons to each, and no one-size-fits-all solution.
Although we were impressed by the quality and nutritional content of the school meals program in Mbola (more on that later), the discussions left us thinking about possible ways for improvement.