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About GCNF

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) stimulates investment in nutritious school meals, unlocking political will and resources necessary to implement and sustain national programs. GCNF helps governments around the world build national school meal programs that are locally-sourced, develop markets for smallholder farmers, create opportunities for female entrepreneurs, and are ultimately independent from international aid. To do this, we:

  • Build capacity of governments to implement national school meal programs
  • Share best practices and tools to support the creation, expansion, and improvement of national school meal programs
  • Engage civil society and businesses to strengthen supply chains and increase political will for school meal programs
  • Coordinate with others in the field – nonprofits, schools, and researchers – to raise awareness and ensure strong support and resourcing for school meal programs

We expand opportunities for the world’s children to receive adequate nutrition for learning and achieving their potential.


We envision a future where school meals sustainably nourish all children and help them, their families, communities, and nations to thrive.

School Meal Programs Work

School meal programs address the three pillars of economic development in one program: education, health and nutrition, and agriculture. Few other programs of scale link these important sectors or have comparable intergenerational benefits.

School meal programs have a positive return on investment. Broadly speaking, findings suggest that investing in nutritious school meal programs today will have benefits in the form of billions of dollars in healthcare cost savings tomorrow. Excluding returns on agriculture, ROI on school meal programs in low-income countries range from $3 to $9 per every dollar spent.

Evidence shows that well-planned and implemented school meal programs work because they:

Contribute to Education:

  • Improve enrollment, attendance, and retention
  • Improve cognitive functioning and learning
  • Reduce behavior problems and depression cause by hunger and household food insecurity

Contribute to good health and nutrition for the children and for subsequent generations. They can be designed to:

  • Address caloric and specific nutritional needs
  • Prevent or mitigate obesity
  • Limit the negative effects of stunting
  • Leverage nutrition and health education

Alleviate household poverty and food insecurity:

  • Offset family food costs
  • Ensure school children receive at least one meal a day

Support agriculture, private sector, community, and economic development:

  • Ensure a predictable, long-term demand for farmers’ produce
  • Develop demand for private sector engagement (food processors, transporters, etc.)
  • Create jobs, particularly for relatively low-skilled women and youth (as cooks, food handlers, etc.)

School meal programs are present in almost every country, functioning as one of the largest safety nets in the world. As of 2013, 368 million children - 1 in 5 - receive a daily meal at school. For many children in vulnerable situations, a school meal is the only nutritious meal they will receive throughout the day.

Why is GCNF's work needed?

Unfortunately, coverage is the weakest in the very situations where the need is the greatest; in low-income countries, only about 18% of school children are provided school meals as opposed to 49% in upper-middle-income countries.