PRESS RELEASE: Data Collection for Second Global Survey of School Meal Programs has Begun

GCNF conducts second round Global Survey of School Meal Programs, capturing world-wide impact of COVID-19 on school meals and child nutrition

SEATTLE, WA – School meal programs — in which students are provided with snacks, meals, or other foods in or through schools — are common worldwide. While country-supported school meals are almost universally embraced globally, standardized information about these programs has not been collected and published regularly, until now. The Global Child Nutrition Foundation’s (GCNF) inaugural Global Survey of School Meal Programs © established a unique global database of standardized information on school meal programs, covering all related sectors and activities.

GCNF is now collecting a second round of data for the Global Survey of School Meal Programs ©, capturing the impact of the pandemic for at least one full school year. As schools closed due to the pandemic, from Honduras to the United States to Senegal to Cambodia, many families’ access to school feeding programs that have been important sources of food and nutrition for their children and essential support for households was lost or limited. GCNF’s survey will help to measure and tell the story of the pandemic’s toll on the school food system, while also documenting the resilience and creativity of school meal programs in the face of such dramatic challenges. 

“We know that the pandemic has had far-reaching and devastating effects on children, their nutrition, and their education,” said GCNF Executive Director Arlene Mitchell. “This survey will not only provide us with more specific information regarding the impact on school-age children and the programs that support their nutrition, it should also give us insights into which countries were better prepared to deal with this public health crisis and what would assist in planning for future emergencies of this type. We will use the survey results to support peer-to-peer sharing and learning amongst policy makers.”

This 2021 survey goes beyond simply counting how many meals are served or how many children are fed. Through the survey, GCNF will gather updated information regarding:

  • The scope of school feeding in each country in the most recently completed school year Government financing of, and involvement in, school feeding
  • Nutrition-, education-, and gender-related aspects of school feeding
  • Job creation, and agricultural and private sector engagement
  • Related health and sanitation topics
  • The impact of emergencies, including the COVID-19 Pandemic

“No one’s done this before and I couldn’t, I kind of couldn’t believe it.” said Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of GAIN and Chair of the UN Food Systems Summit’s Action Track 1, on the extensive data collected in the Global Survey of School Meal Programs. “No one has collected this data before in a systematic manner, given that these programs have been around so long, they have so much potential to do good. And so many countries have them. It seemed amazing to me that there isn’t a database on them.”

GCNF Global Survey Team members have begun reaching out to country governments around the world to begin completing questionnaires. The Global Survey of School Meal Programs Questionnaire may be completed online or in PDF format (with email submission). It is available in PDF format in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. The Survey Team will serve as virtual guides, to answer questions, and otherwise work with government-appointed Focal Points to complete the survey. Learn more about the Global Survey team.

The 2019 Global Survey drew responses from 103 countries representing 78% of the world’s population. Of these, 85 countries had at least one large-scale school feeding program and provided data for their most recently completed school year. The remaining 18 countries reported that they had no relevant program. Complete survey results and additional information can be found at It is GCNF’s intention to update the Global Survey periodically (e.g., every two to three years) in order to track changes and identify trends in school feeding programs over time.

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation brings together a committed community of governments, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that hunger is not a barrier to learning for any child. Together we advocate for school feeding programs as a powerful investment in every child’s human capital; share best practices and research among our peers; and provide support through forging valuable partnerships and connecting resources to meet the needs of our network members.



Contact Information:
Global Child Nutrition Foundation
Rebecca Steelman


Heidi Kessler
Senior Program & Operations Officer

Now Hiring: Finance and Administration Coordinator

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) is seeking a part-time Finance and Administration Coordinator.

Responsibilities: The Coordinator’s primary responsibility will be to implement financial and administrative actions on behalf of GCNF.

The position is part-time, averaging 20 hours per week. It requires a confident individual with experience in bookkeeping and use of finance systems, as well as general office procedures. The incumbent is expected to maintain and improve ongoing financial and administrative processes, procedures, and policies as needed.  This person should be efficient at handling multiple priorities, work efficiently, take initiative, be organized, and be a team player with a great attitude.

The Coordinator is expected to manage the day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year financial and administrative processes that enable GCNF to carry out its mission and priority programs. Noting that GCNF is a small organization with a limited set of core activities but with programs and projects that peak and ebb in any given year, the responsibilities of the Coordinator are to:

  • Facilitate the financial and administrative processes to support GCNF’s accounts payable and accounts receivable processes including preparing check/wire requests, invoicing, processing travel/expense vouchers, depositing checks, coordinating payroll and benefits, facilitating online merchant services, and documenting all of these processes to the standards as outlined by the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the United States.
  • Liaise with the bookkeeping service that GCNF contracts with to ensure proper bookkeeping of all of GCNF’s financial transactions including the monthly reconciliation of all bank and credit accounts, all income and expense transactions, all in-kind transactions, and all liability and equity of the organization to standards as prescribed by GAAP.
  • Prepare all monthly financial reports for review by the Executive Director and the Treasurer of the Board.
  • Monitor credit card and bank accounts.
  • Work with relevant staff, consultants, and funding entities to develop and monitor project budgets.
  • Assist Executive Director and Finance Committee in development and tracking of annual budget.
  • Liaise with the Auditor to conduct a standard audit of GCNF’s annual financial statements. The Coordinator will provide the auditor with all requested financial statements and supporting documentation. The Coordinator will provide needed data and oversee the preparation of the audit, ensuring that it is accurate and completed on time.
  • Prepare and submit all necessary registration documents to guarantee GCNF’s legal registration at the Federal, State, and local levels including maintaining GCNF’s registered agent service and any required state charitable solicitation registrations.
  • Maintain relevant GCNF insurance policies.
  • Research and coordinate costs and solutions for the purchase of equipment, supplies, travel, software, subscriptions, and other items needed to support GCNF’s operations and programs.
  • Support the financial and administrative aspects of GCNF’s fundraising and communications campaigns and activities.
  • Ensure that all donations and fundraising activities are documented in compliance with GCNF’s status as a 501(c)3 organization.
  • Manage outgoing and incoming correspondence and mail related to administrative and financial matters.
  • Coordinate and maintain records of staff and consultant contracts.
  • Provide other financial support as requested.
  • Provide ad hoc administrative and event support as needed to staff and consultants, including to those based overseas.


  • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field (or extensive and proven success in previous roles)
  • Previous finance and accounting experience in a nonprofit environment
  • Knowledge of accounting principles, fund accounting, GAAP, nonprofit accounting, laws, tax codes, government regulations, and best practices
  • Skilled in QuickBooks, spreadsheets (Excel or other), Google Workspace, Zoom, and Microsoft Office
  • Respect for and ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds and styles
  • Commitment to confidentiality in managing sensitive information 
  • Exceptional attention to detail, skilled in research and analysis 
  • Ability to manage competing priorities and self-direct to meet strict deadlines
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills – ability to communicate complex financial information clearly and concisely
  • Ability to work effectively both in a virtual environment and in person

The position may be remote/located anywhere in the USA. Reliable access to internet and phone is required.  Company computer and software provided. Regular virtual meetings are required.

Compensation: TBD, based on experience

To apply: Please email your application to  with the subject line: “Finance and Admin Coordinator” by June 26. Applications and interviews will be held on a rolling basis, so we encourage you to apply as soon as possible. Three professional references will be requested from final candidates.

Your application should include: A resume, a customized cover letter outlining why your experience makes you the best fit for this position, and (optional) link to an updated LinkedIn profile.

About GCNF: GCNF is a non-governmental, non-profit, (501c3) organization based in the United States that works with governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to support school meal programs that help children and communities thrive. GCNF provides training, technical assistance, peer-to-peer learning and networking opportunities to help governments build national school meal programs that are nutritious, locally-sourced, and ultimately independent from international aid.

Founded in 2006, GCNF is registered to operate in both Washington and Virginia. GCNF’s annual budgets over the past five years have ranged from roughly $500,000 to $1 million. Its small staff (averaging about three employees per year) is supplemented by the services of international and domestic consultants, volunteers, interns, contractors, and—on occasion—by members of its Executive Board.

While we are a very small organization, we have an excellent reputation globally, an extensive international network, and a mighty ambition.

For more information: or

AgriPulse Opinion: Global school feeding programs

By Marshall Matz and Julia Johnson, OFW Law

International school feeding programs have long been recognized as an important investment in a child’s nutrition and health outcomes. Recently, the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GNCF) set out to fill the need of documenting school feeding programs consistently and comprehensively through issuing the first of its kind Global Survey of School Meal Programs. They have just published findings from the survey in the new report “School Meals Around the World”, which provide necessary insight into the power of school meals in shaping the food and education system. The GCNF brings together governments, civil society, and the private sector to expand opportunities for children to receive adequate nutrition for learning and achieving their potential.

Teachers know all too well that hungry children do not learn effectively and that school meal programs are critical to satisfying this need. Beyond fulfilling daily health and nutrition needs, school meal programs incentivize regular school attendance, keep kids – particularly girls – in school for longer, promote literacy, and support agricultural supply chains, among other advantages.  Further, educating girls means that they get married later, have fewer children, and are upwardly mobile. 

The GCNF report found that nearly three-quarters of the programs served as a social safety net for families who could not afford to feed their children. A smaller percentage of programs aimed to meet agriculture goals or obesity prevention and mitigation outcomes. Dietary diversity increased when food was purchased closer to where the school meal program was located, with 82 percent of programs purchasing some or all school food in-country and 72 percent purchasing locally. In some instances, farmers were directly engaged in school meal operations. Programs can also play a significant role in women’s economic empowerment, with 67 percent of programs reporting a focus on creating jobs or leadership opportunities for women. 

Notably, the report finds that school meals have the potential to transform local food systems. Not only do they drive agricultural economic growth, but they also help shift food systems towards targeting the needs of children. Furthermore, schools serve as a food environment where healthy diets can be instilled. These findings are very timely given the upcoming U.N. Food Systems Summit (FSS) in September 2021. 

Input into the FSS is being guided by five action tracks, each charged with finding game-changing solutions to the world’s greatest food system challenges. In an interview conducted by GCNF Executive Director Arlene Mitchell on the report, Dr. Lawrence Haddad, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition Executive Director and FSS action track 1 chair, said that school feeding has often been featured in the solutions space for the FSS. He says, “The education system and the food system are intricately linked, and they can be made more intricately linked in a positive way.” 

Given the advantages of school meals, the 2002 Farm Bill authorized the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program. The program, implemented by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), delivers U.S. agricultural commodities and financial and technical assistance to food-insecure countries to establish school feeding programs. According to the most recent USDA report, McGovern-Dole is currently reaching over 4.1 million people through 46 active projects in 30 countries. 

GCNF also issued a special report on school meal programs in the 41 countries that received McGovern-Dole food assistance between 2013 and 2018 and/or were eligible to receive support in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. From the McGovern-Dole report findings, GCNF developed a series of recommendations for the U.S. government and implementing partners to increase program sustainability and therefore, as Dr. Haddad puts it, tie the food and education system together in a more meaningful way. These recommendations include increasing national government engagement, supporting fortified food supply chain development, increased monitoring and evaluation around gender, and formalizing job opportunities that support McGovern-Dole implementation.

COVID-19 has disrupted school meal programs, helping to drive unprecedented levels of hunger in modern history. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 370 million children have missed school meals due to COVID-19 related closures. Today, WFP estimates that 73 million primary school-aged children need school meals. Despite challenges, many schools have been able to pivot their programming by, for example, providing take-home rations. The reports from GCNF are a critical tool for those in the school feeding community and beyond to share knowledge, identify trends, strengths, and weaknesses in school feeding, and advocate for school meal programs, especially as a pathway to recovery and sustainable economic growth.

The GCNF is conducting their 2021 Global Survey of School Meal Programs which will aim to capture the full impact of COVID-19 of the pandemic for at least one full school year.  For more information, please visit

Marshall Matz specializes in global food security at OFW Law in Washington, D.C.  Julia Johnson is an Agricultural Legislative Assistant at OFW Law. 

Read the full article at AgriPulse.

Devex: More kids fed when school meals are national budget item, report finds

Including school meal programs as a line item in national budgets can help larger numbers of children get fed, according to a new report from the Global Child Nutrition Foundation.

The report found a correlation between the line items and number of children served. Sixty-six of the 83 countries surveyed include a line item for school meal programs in their national budgets, 65% of which were low-income.

 In countries without a line item, only 15% of primary and secondary school-age children were fed at school. In countries that did include the programs as a line item, 25% of children received meals at school.

Arlene Mitchell, executive director at GCNF, said levels of funding for school meal programs coming directly from governments can vary widely because the World Food Programme and NGOs often fund and implement them in low-income countries. Transitioning these programs to government control and national funding poses challenges, she said, particularly with budgeting.

The largest international school meal program effort, the U.S. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, funds U.S.-based NGOs. It does not provide money directly to governments.

“It makes it challenging, but nonetheless important, for the nonprofits to work with national governments where they’re implementing the programs to help them figure out a way to take over,” Mitchell said. “It is difficult, though, to go from being entirely externally funded to being totally nationally funded.”

Read the full article on Devex.

CCGA: School Feeding: A Path to Recovery and a Better Future

On a mission to fill an information void, in 2019 the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) conducted a Global Survey of School Meal Programs©. We learned a great deal from that survey as can be seen in the new report School Meal Programs Around the World The COVID-19 pandemic has added tough lessons for school meal programs, however, and heightened the urgency for understanding and investing in these programs.

School meal programs have existed for decades—for more than a century in some countries. Yet they have not been documented in a consistent and comprehensive manner, making it hard to compare programs, determine successes and challenges, or identify trends, needs and opportunities. The GCNF survey, funded in part by the US Department of Agriculture, begins to fill this void, and plans to update the information every two to three years, with the second round to start this July.

The 2019 survey drew responses from 103 countries, representing 78 percent of the world’s population. Of those, 85 reported about one or more large-scale school meal program serving 297.3 million children between ages five and eighteen. All the countries reported focusing on primary schools, and two thirds reported also targeting pre-school children. Just under half (47 percent) said they targeted secondary school students.

School meal programs are a vital social safety net.

Almost three quarters of countries responding to our survey said that their programs were a social safety net, offsetting household costs for families of poor or vulnerable children. The alarming increase in out-of-school children and rising child hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for such safety nets to expand as the entire food supply chain has been affected by the health crisis and many schools remain closed or unable to provide food.

Programs have responded innovatively by engaging different partners like food banks, restaurants, and churches and pivoting to different distribution methods such as pick-up, home delivery, or electronic vouchers. But programs will need to shift again to effectively bring children back to schools when it is safe, and it is critical that governments safeguard their school feeding budgets and ensure programs are part of pandemic recovery plans. One of the best-documented benefits of school meal programs is that they incentivize school attendance; and help children to focus on their lessons and learn.

The impact of school meals can be even greater for adolescent girls—especially in light of a predicted increase in rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy around the world. Well-nourished girls achieve better learning outcomes, delay marriage and early pregnancy, and have the opportunity to advance their lives. Yet the survey found that only 47 percent of programs targeted secondary school students and regions with the lowest levels of secondary school feeding programs are where early marriage and pregnancy rates are the highest.

The survey shows that many countries are investing heavily in school meal programs, yet coverage is weakest precisely where the need is greatest. While financing remains a challenge in many countries, it is clear that programs were most successful when funding is earmarked in national budgets. Those investments are well justified, as school meal programs bring several pillars of development together under one umbrella. I used to think about school feeding as a trifecta, with wins for education, health and nutrition, and agriculture. The survey has given a more holistic picture of a spectrum of benefits and shown that school meal programs are actually better than a trifecta, by also driving inclusive economic growth.


School meal programs support producers and helps build resilient supply chains.

The survey found that these programs constitute significant institutional demand for safe and nutritious food. This supports producers, encourages production of healthier foods for children, and helps to build resilient supply chains. Harnessing this buying power could have a powerful and positive effect on both national and global food systems.

That’s not all: School meal programs create jobs and encourage private sector development. The survey noted over 4,000,000 jobs linked to school meal activities in the 53 countries that were able to provide some job-related data. Nigeria reported 107,000 cooks and food preparers; Burkina Faso, a low-income country that prioritizes school feeding reported 19,980 cooks and food preparers; and some 2.6 million paid “cooks cum helpers” were involved in India’s massive school meal program. Furthermore, school meal programs provide countries with an avenue to improve economic opportunities for women: Nearly all countries reported that between 75 and 100 percent of their school cooks are women. Unfortunately, 31 percent of programs said that very few or none of their school cooks were paid for their work.

In the wise words of GCNF’s co-founder Gene White, “[p]owerful things happen when parents, educators, community organizers, local businesses, and government officials within a school system share a common vision for healthy children. Yes, a child’s prospects are changed, but it is far more than that. Local farmers work with purpose knowing there’s a ready market for their goods. Jobs are created to distribute and produce food. Local economies grow stronger as children grow up to be healthy, productive citizens who can access and create opportunities. When systems work together in this manner, school nutrition programs are sustainable and scalable. Societies develop in which hunger is not a barrier to children’s learning and local economies thrive.”

The pandemic wreaked havoc on school systems and disrupted school meal programs around the world. At the peak of school closures in April 2020, 1.5 billion children were out of school, and 370 million children were not receiving the school meals they depend on. Program implementers worked desperately to adjust their programs to safely serve the most vulnerable despite the closure of schools, borders, travel and transport options, and most businesses. Funding for school meals was also taxed, as governments and donors alike focused their resources on health care, safety measures, and finding a cure. The 2021 Global Survey of School Meal Programs © will begin this July and aims to capture the impact of the pandemic for at least one full school year. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we invest more than ever in school meal programs as a path to recovery and toward a better future. Much better than a trifecta, no?

Read the full article on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Food for Thought blog.

PRESS RELEASE: GCNF’s Report School Meal Programs Around the World finds school feeding programs drive inclusive economic growth

SEATTLE, WA (April 14, 2021) — School meal programs extend benefits far beyond their critical education and nutritional value for vulnerable children, creating jobs and contributing to agricultural and economic growth and social stability for whole communities says a new Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) report, School Meal Programs Around the World. While many countries are investing in school meal programs, coverage is weakest precisely where the need is the greatest.

“The value of school feeding as an investment in human capital is essential to inclusive economic growth and the well-being of children and families,” Mitchell says. “Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we advocate for school feeding programs as a path to recovery. School meals support children in returning to school. They directly contribute to children’s health, nutrition, and education, expand employment opportunities for women and youth and strengthen agriculture. The intergenerational benefits are enormous.”

The report School Meal Programs Around the World, is based on the Global Survey of School Meal Programs © conducted in 2019 by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, creating the first comprehensive global database of school meal programs. 

Of the 103 countries that responded, 85 countries reported that they have one or more large-scale school meal programs that serve an estimated 297.3 million children around the world. Almost three quarters of countries stated their programs also serve as a social safety net, providing food for poor or vulnerable children that offsets household costs for their families. As schools closed due to the pandemic, from Honduras to the United States to Senegal, families had limited access to school feeding programs that have been important sources of food and nutrition for their children and essential support to households. 

The survey also reveals that while financing remains a challenge in many countries, it is clear that programs are most successful when funding is earmarked in national budgets. “Governments across the world must invest in grey matter infrastructure; the infrastructure that helps brains grow from nutrition; the infrastructure that builds the healthy and productive workforce of the future,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and 2017 recipient of both GCNF’s Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award and the World Food Prize.

The survey also found that nearly all programs purchase some or all food domestically creating significant institutional demand to support the livelihoods of local producers, encourage production of healthier foods for children, and build resilience into our supply chains. Harnessing this buying power could have a powerful and positive effect on both national and global food systems.

“The survey enhances our understanding of the wide range of benefits and value of school feeding as an economic and social development tool,” explains Executive Director Arlene Mitchell. “We expect the impact on food systems to be great as we uncover multiple opportunities to strengthen program engagement with agriculture and to use local purchasing, especially from small scale farmers as a tool for economic development and resilience.”

Countries also recognize that school feeding programs meaningfully contribute to women’s equitable economic empowerment when emphasizing formal employment and fair wages. Most countries reported that 75% or more of school food preparers are women, but 31% of programs reported that very few or no cooks receive payment for their work.

The impact of school meals can be even greater for adolescent girls—well-nourished adolescent girls achieve better learning outcomes, delay marriage and early pregnancy, and have the opportunity to advance their lives. Yet the survey found that countries where early marriage and pregnancy rates are the highest have the lowest levels of secondary school feeding programs.

“I will not rest until every child in Africa has at least two meals a day and can go to school, because then maybe they will have a chance of following in my footsteps—have a right to control their destiny.” said Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Special Envoy for 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation works with governments, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that hunger is not a barrier to learning for any child. Together we advocate for school feeding programs as a powerful investment in every child’s human capital; share best practices and research among our peers; and provide support through forging valuable partnerships and connecting resources to meet the needs of our network members.

GCNF’s goal is to conduct its survey every two to three years to provide a systematically updated view of school feeding programs around the world. The upcoming 2021 Global Survey of School Meal Programs © aims to capture the impact of the pandemic for at least one full school year, utilizing the 2019 survey as a baseline.

“We have so much more information than before and we can see the landscape of school feeding from multiple angles,” said Mitchell. “But most topics require more in-depth examination and, above all, action. COVID-19 has heightened the urgency for action.”


Contact Information:

Global Child Nutrition Foundation

Rebecca Steelman

Communications Officer



Jennifer Shin

Senior Program Officer