Learning Exchange Program
The Global Child Nutrition Foundation believes that the best way for countries to build durable, nutritious school meal programs is to learn directly from their peers. Country-to-country learning and South-South cooperation have long been featured at the annual Global Child Nutrition Forum and integrated into GCNF’s other programs with a growing focus on multi-tiered and multi-sectoral collaboration. GCNF is now extending this approach beyond the Forum, through Learning Exchanges.
Learning Exchanges will catalyze peer-to-peer sharing, using structured learning activities and tailored site visits. A carefully selected group of key players in the targeted school meal programs will be invited to host and/or to visit one another’s porgram. Each visit is designed with specific learning objectives and each visit will build on and add to what has come before. The Learning Exchanges are intended to benefit both the hosting and the visiting participants and their respective programs by fostering joint problem solving and experiential learning, and the visits may be complemented with meetings or conferences to further share and enhance the group’s learning.
Whether between states or provinces within a country, or between countries with shared interests, the Learning Exchanges will provide insight into good practices and innovations to enhance programs.
Why Learning Exchange?
- Help to fast track improvements in the involved school meal programs by expanding information sharing and problem solving within and between countries
- Encourage collaboration between relevant public and private sector players (including large-scale non-profit, non-governmental players)
- Identify practices and research results relevant for school meal programs
- Identify and encourage governments and key partners to become leaders in the regional and global contexts of school meal programs
- Improve and build on data collected at state/provincial and/or at national level
- Strengthen state-to-state and country-to-country professional school feeding networks and alliances
Where is the learning exchange implemented?
The first GCNF Learning Exchange is being implemented in India, to support state-to-state, and state-central government information sharing. By sheer scale, India has the largest school meal program in the world, yet it is too often absent from the global discourse. The national school meal program, known as the Midday Meals (MDM) Scheme, feeds about 100 million school children, covering 1.1 million schools on a daily basis. Founded in response to a court order as a “rights based” social development program of the Government of India, the MDM, among other things, seeks to address issues of food security, lack of nutrition, and access to education on a nationwide scale.
The 2019-2020 India Learning Exchange consists of conducting a state-level survey (based on the GCNF Global Survey of School Meal Programs) to set the stage and identifying key challenges and opportunities; state visits for some 22 participating states; and a national-level forum.
The Learning Exchange of School Meal Programs in India will aim to expand state-to-state, central-to-state, and state-to-central information sharing and problem solving within India, and encourage collaboration between relevant public and private sector player by conducting a State-level Survey of School Meal Programs, establishing and facilitating national and regional learning platforms in India.
Through these investments and engagements, India can become a model country and a global leader in establishing peer learning and knowledge sharing platform within and outside of the country.
The effort in India is being led by IPE Global, with the involvement of various GCNF partners, with generous financial support from the General Mills Foundation and others, and technical support from Akshaya Patra, the World Food Program, DSM, and more.
How will the Learning Exchange work?
One goal for Learning Exchanges is to develop or strengthen sustainable professional alliances between those working in and responsible for school meal programs. In our experience, even when professionals within a country communicate well, communicating and collaborating with peers across country borders can be very challenging.
Over the past 20 years, GCNF has supported the creation and ongoing operations of school feeding professional networks in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, through its Forums and via providing legal and governance advice, offering to host or contribute to network website, and more. Learning Exchanges will build on this strong foundation to further network-building efforts.
In addition to ensuring that the India Learning Exchange experience is shared with other countries in the region:
- GCNF hosted a rich discussion between Canadian school feeding organizations and American government officials and partners to make the case for a national school meal program in Canada.
- GCNF is currently in discussions with governments and partners in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regarding a potential Learning Exchange between some or all of the SADC member states.
- At the request of a partner in the Pacific region, GCNF is providing assistance in improving sharing and collaborative actions between nations in that region.
- The 2019 Global Survey of School Meal Programs is opening doors and providing insights as to where GCNF can be helpful in addressing shared challenges and potential solutions around the world
State/Provincial-Level Surveys of School Meal Programs
Another goal of GCNF Learning Exchanges is to support improvements in data systems relevant to school meal programs. Gathering accurate data regarding even very large-scaled school meal programs has been difficult in countries with Federal-State or de-centralized governance and implementation models.
GCNF has therefore designed a state/province-level survey, based on the Global Survey, to encourage record-keeping and sharing in de-centralized programs. The state/provincial-level survey is being piloted in India in conjunction with both the 2019 Global Survey and the Learning Exchange. Based on the experience in India, GCNF may offer this option in other countries where it has been difficult to understand the full picture of what is happening in school meal programs using only the data available at the national level.
Countries that have participated in Learning Exchanges may be invited to attend the annual Global Child Nutrition Forum. The Forum will serve as an opportunity for Learning Exchange participants to debrief, share best practices, lessons learned, to plan future activities, and to share relevant aspects of their Learning Exchange experiences with other countries. They may also be asked to participate in contributing data to GCNF’s Global Survey of School Meal Programs. With better information regarding the successes, challenges, and key aspects of de-centralized models, national governments, GCNF, and others can facilitate and speed improvements across programs to benefit more children with nutritious meals at school.