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Assessing impact of Covid-19 on school feeding programmes in the Asia-Pacific region

We explored the impact of Covid-19 on policy, design, implementation and monitoring of school feeding programmes in Asia-Pacific

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Globally, an estimated 305 million children in low- and middle-income countries receive school meals every day. As part of Covid-19 containment measures, most countries in the world introduced temporary school closures. As of April 2020, schools were closed in 180 countries and 85% of the students worldwide were reportedly out of school. Against this backdrop, the World Food Programme’s Regional Bureau in Bangkok commissioned us to undertake a review of adaptations to on-site school feeding in the region to inform policymaking and programming.

Challenges

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 129 million children in the Asia-Pacific region received school meals, mainly through national school feeding programmes. These programmes served a range of objectives: addressing short-term hunger; acting as safety nets during crises; ensuring nutrition security; and incentivising school enrolment, attendance, and retention. The pandemic resulted in unprecedented school closures, resulting in disruption to on-site school feeding across the region.

Our approach

Our study had to address the key research question: how has Covid-19 impacted policy, design, and implementation and monitoring of school feeding programmes in the Asia-Pacific region?

The Asia-Pacific region comprises a diverse set of countries which had vastly different school feeding programmes prior to the onset of Covid-19.

Our research was split into two phases:

  • Phase I (August to November 2020) focussed on early adaptations to school feeding; and
  • Phase II (October 2020 to May 2021) assessed the relevance and future of school feeding amidst the ongoing pandemic.

This sought to answer the key research question through an emphasis on gathering data primarily from six countries in the region where WFP supports school feeding in different capacities: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

Outcomes

The project outputs included:

(1) an analytical report assessing adaptations to school feeding in 2020, for use by WFP’s country offices to support programming and advocacy for school feeding;

(2) an analytical synthesis report outlining adaptations to school feeding, as well as implications of Covid-19 for the future of school feeding in the region titled ‘School feeding amidst a pandemic: Preparing for the new normal in Asia-Pacific’;

(3) A webinar presenting findings of the study, hosted as a panel discussion on socialprotection.org; and

(4) A policy brief summarising findings of the study targeted at global audience

The findings of this review will inform WFP’s regional planning, as well as programming for WFP’s country offices in the Asia-Pacific region.