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Learning Exchange Program

We believe 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 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 are invited to host and/or to visit one another’s program. Each visit is designed with specific learning objectives and 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. 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

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 Learning Exchange of School Meal Programs aims to develop and strengthen sustainable professional network between those working in and responsible for school meal programs. The network is not exclusive and is an evolving one as more stakeholders form an alliance to support a shared agenda of advancing school meal programs around the world. In India, this network is a joint collaboration between IPE Global (India Implementing Partner), United Nation World Food Programme (India Technical Partner), Akshaya Patra (India Technical Partner: Non-Government) and Manna Trust (India Technical Partner: Non-Government), Global Child Nutrition Foundation (Global Partner) and General Mills Inc. (Global Resource Partner). The network is committed to fostering deeper engagement with the Central Government and State Governments and creates active learning and sharing space for the world’s largest school meal program in the national, regional as well as in the global community.

The Learning Exchange of School Meal Programs is made possible by generous financial support from General Mills Inc.

Highlights from India Learning Exchange

State Survey of School Meal Programs: India

The State Survey of School Meal Programs is an adaptation of the Global Survey of School Meal Programs ©
launched by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation in 2019.

The State Survey aims to gather nuanced data at the sub-national level in countries operating significantly decentralized programs, which may not be comprehensively captured through the Global Survey. The first State Survey was administered in India in 2019-2020 and was designed to capture the complexity and diversity of the Mid-day Meal scheme, the world’s largest school meal program.

Mapping of School Meal Stakeholders in India: An Exploratory Study

To complement the Learning Exchange in India, GCNF embarked on an exploratory study to map school meal program stakeholders and
gain a better understanding of the NGO partnership model across three key pre-school and school-based child nutrition programmes in India—MDM, Anganwadi, and Tribal Residential School Feeding (TRSF).

This study was made possible by the generous support of Share Our Strength. Share Our Strength is a nonprofit working to end hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. Most of their work takes place in the United States, through the No Kid Hungry campaign, but they also support research and programs around the world. Learn more at

Inter-state Regional Consultative Workshop

Read highlights from this workshop on emerging best practices in the implementation of Midday Meal Scheme, hosted by Government of Kerala in February 2020.

With participation from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telengana, Goa, Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh and Lakshadweep

Webinar Series: India School Meals in the Time of COVID-19

Nearly 1.5 billion learners in more than 180 countries are affected by school closures from the COVID-19 outbreak. In particular, the most vulnerable households which rely on these daily meals for their children have felt the greatest impact on their food security and nutrition. In India, schools have been suspended since March 2020 to contain the spread of this highly communicable disease. With no clarity on the resumption of in-premises schooling, India’s Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, which reaches more than 100 million schoolchildren, faces one of its toughest implementation phases since its launch. Our two- part webinar series aims to catalyze timely and relevant knowledge sharing during this critical period.

How does a 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.

Additional Opportunities

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.

For more information about the GCNF Learning Exchanges,
please contact us at