More than 70 government officials representing education, agriculture, gender, and social protection sectors attended the inaugural Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Regional Technical Conference on Homegrown School Feeding on 3-4 October in Dakar, Senegal.
Led by ECOWAS with support from the World Bank and the World Food Programme (WFP), the two-day conference, titled ‘Investing in home-grown school meals to strengthen human capital, women’s economic empowerment, and contribute to economic development,’ showcased significant progress in school meal programs in the region.
A total of 22.4 million children are now receiving school meals, and investment has increased from $450 million to $543 million from 2020 to 2022. Additionally, 83% of ECOWAS countries have established school-feeding policies, reaffirming their commitment to these programs. The conference highlighted the manifold benefits of Homegrown School Feeding, from improving education outcomes and addressing child malnutrition to empowering girls and women and promoting food sovereignty.
Key recommendations included:
- Securing long-term government funding.
- Enhancing data collection systems.
- Promoting girls to stay in school and women’s economic empowerment.
- Ensuring access to safe, high-quality, and affordable foods.
The call to action from the event includes ECOWAS support for the School Meals Coalition and organizing a follow-up technical conference and ministerial event in 2024. The Dakar conference has been instrumental in fostering collaboration, sharing knowledge, and shaping the future of school feeding programs in the ECOWAS region.