Private Sector Engagement Initiative

The GCNF Private Sector Engagement Initiative was created with the underlying premise that more and better collaboration between the public, private and international donor sectors is needed to ensure that the reach, quality and sustainability of school meals programs is improved and furthered. Improved collaboration can contribute to children’s survival and quality of life, nutrition and educational outcomes, ultimately paving the way for these children to reach their full potential and to make sound contributions to their economies.

Background and Context

Most countries in the world provide “home-grown school feeding” (HGSF), or nutrition-based school meal programs sourced from in-country farm production. These programs benefit the school children that need sustenance during the school day in order to learn and to thrive. The programs also offer options for profits and jobs along the supply chain—from the farmers who produce the food, to processors, transporters, cooks, utensil makers and more. School feeding programs are big business in terms of scale and investment. It is estimated that globally about 368 million children receive a meal at school every day, requiring an annual investment of 75 billion USD (WFP, 2013). A large portion of the investment in school feeding comes from national governments.

The programs also take into account that few smallholders are equipped to respond to typical tendering procedures designed for large-scale government purchases. Therefore, HGSF programs normally require some changes in procurement processes in order to allow smallholders to participate, while still meeting accountability, quality control and transparency standards. Unfortunately, the locations where HGSF programs are most needed (to support children and to develop agriculture, industry, and jobs) are the same locations, which are the furthest behind in developing and implementing programs for local benefit.

The situation is rapidly changing, however. Developing countries—spurred by the Millennium Development Project, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, their own economic development objectives, and assisted by a number of entities (including the United Nations World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization; the Global Child Nutrition Foundation; the Governments of Brazil, Chile, the Netherlands, and the United States; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and the World Bank)—are committing their own resources to buy from their own farmers to feed their own schoolchildren.

Although the greatest beneficiaries of the programs are some of the world’s most needy children and their families, government officials are learning that HGSF is popular across a wide range of political constituencies. They are also realizing that investments in HGSF support their health, economic and poverty reduction goals and will thus pay social and economic dividends well into the future.

The bottom line is that HGSF programs are growing quickly, governments are increasing investment in HGSF and this growth presents opportunities for private sector involvement—especially for industry where the market objectives are matched with broad humanitarian concerns for the health and education of children.

Interested in learning more about the GCNF Private Sector Engagement Initiative? Contact Will McMahan, will (at) GCNF (dot) org.