Open Access Does provision of food in school increase girls' enrollment? Evidence from schools in sub-Saharan Africa

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Background. The problem of low female literacy rates in Africa starts with low primary school enrollment, particularly in areas of high food insecurity. The provi- sion of food in, and through, schools is considered to be one way of enrolling more girls in school, keeping them enrolled, and enhancing their adult well-being and pro- ductivity as a result.

Objective. To investigate the effects of provision of food and additional take-home rations in schools on girls' enrollment.

Methods. A retrospective cross-sectional study was designed based on school-level surveys in 32 African countries between 2002 and 2005. The study population consisted of girls and boys in primary schools targeted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and located in food-insecure areas that also suffered from lack of access to education.

Results. Provision of food in schools through the Food for Education (FFE) program contributed to increasing absolute enrollment in WFP-assisted schools by 28% for girls and 22% for boys in the first year. Post year-one enrollment patterns varied according to the type of FFE program. Where provision of take-home rations for girls was combined with on-site feeding for all pupils, the increase in girls' absolute enrollment was sustained at 30% after the first year. However, in schools providing on-site feeding alone, the rate of increase in absolute enrollment after the first year reverted to the rates of increase found in the year prior to FFE implementation. The provision of take-home rations also appeared to reduce the dropout rate of female students, particularly in the higher grades.

Conclusions. FFE programs can have a lasting positive influence on school enrollment and, by providing extra take-home rations to girls, in addition to on-site feeding, can make a strong contribution to the Millennium Development Goals.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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