PRESS RELEASE: 2022 School Meal Programs Around the World

Over $35.3 billion were spent on School Meal Programs last year 

A new report from the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) released today presents a comprehensive view of School Meal Programs Around the World. The report shows that across 139 countries, 330.3 million children received food through school meal programs with an aggregate investment of at least $35.3 billion. Governments are investing their resources in school meal programs: The survey shows that an average of 70% of funding comes from governments.

“The report helps us all to see clearly that while school feeding is extensive, it is highly varied in its form,” said Margaret Grosh, retired Senior Advisor of Social Protection and Jobs at the World Bank, who reviewed the report.

“GCNF is eager to collaborate with governments, researchers and other stakeholders to ensure that the data is put to good use,” said GCNF Executive Director Arlene Mitchell. “The survey data can be used to direct efforts to the areas of greatest need, to support investments based on deeper knowledge, to better advocate for resources and to show progress over time.”

The report demonstrates how these programs are growing and resilient, even in low-income countries and in the face of multiple emergencies, including COVID-19. They responded actively and often with great agility to the COVID-19 crisis, even as pandemic challenges disrupted their work. About 45 countries reported an increase in the number of children fed by at least 5%. 

The survey also sheds light on a few positive outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the disruption caused by the pandemic brought greater attention to, and appreciation for, the role of school meal programs. While these programs had always filled an important role—nourishing children in schools and facilitating learning—the interruption of these services highlighted to many people their critical importance. Second, the public health crisis brings greater attention to school hygiene, with school systems providing additional handwashing stations, maintaining greater cleanliness on school property and monitoring and enforcing food hygiene in school kitchens. 

Rates of government support for school feeding, coverage, and successful integration of school meal programs with agricultural development were highest in Latin America and the Caribbean where school meal programs are estimated to reach 88% of primary school-age children in the region. 

The programs create opportunities for farmers, the private sector and job seekers. School cooks are mostly women, especially in lower-income settings. At the same time, it is relatively less common for cooks to receive payment in low-income settings, with just half of the programs in these settings indicating that a majority of their cooks are somehow remunerated.

The 2022 edition of School Meal Programs Around the World presents the results of GCNF’s second Global Survey of School Meal Programs©, conducted from July 2021 through March 2022. Government officials responded to a detailed questionnaire about school meal programs in their countries operating in 2020-2021. Government officials and NGOs from over 30 countries will gather in Benin for the 23rd Annual Global Child Nutrition Forum from 24-27 October to determine how this data can help direct efforts to the areas of greatest need, to support investments based on deeper knowledge, and to better advocate for resources.

The GCNF surveys were funded by multiple donors, most notably the United States Department of Agriculture, the world’s largest donor for international school meal programs through its McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. 

About: GCNF is a non-profit (501c3) organization based in Seattle, Washington that works together with government leaders and a diverse network of partners around the world to ensure sustainable and nutritious school meal programs that give every child the opportunity to learn and thrive.  



Contact information:

Tori Spivey

Communications Officer