The costs and cost-efficiency of providing food through schools in areas of high food insecurity
Authors: Gelli, Aulo; Al-Shaiba, Najeeb; Espejo, Francisco
Source: Food & Nutrition Bulletin, Volume 30, Number 1, March 2009 , pp. 68-76(9)
Abstract:Background. The provision of food in and through schools has been used to support the education, health, and nutrition of school-aged children. The monitoring of financial inputs into school health and nutrition programs is critical for a number of reasons, including accountability, transparency, and equity. Furthermore, there is a gap in the evidence on the costs, cost-efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of providing food through schools, particularly in areas of high food insecurity.
Objective. To estimate the programmatic costs and cost-efficiency associated with providing food through schools in food-insecure, developing-country contexts, by analyzing global project data from the World Food Programme (WFP).
Methods. Project data, including expenditures and number of schoolchildren covered, were collected through project reports and validated through WFP Country Office records. Yearly project costs per schoolchild were standardized over a set number of feeding days and the amount of energy provided by the average ration. Output metrics, such as tonnage, calories, and micronutrient content, were used to assess the cost-efficiency of the different delivery mechanisms.
Results. The average yearly expenditure per child, standardized over a 200-day on-site feeding period and an average ration, excluding school-level costs, was US$21.59. The costs varied substantially according to choice of food modality, with fortified biscuits providing the least costly option of about US$11 per year and take-home rations providing the most expensive option at approximately US$52 per year. Comparisons across the different food modalities suggested that fortified biscuits provide the most cost-efficient option in terms of micronutrient delivery (particularly vitamin A and iodine), whereas on-site meals appear to be more efficient in terms of calories delivered. Transportation and logistics costs were the main drivers for the high costs.
Conclusions. The choice of program objectives will to a large degree dictate the food modality (biscuits, cooked meals, or take-home rations) and associated implementation costs. Fortified biscuits can provide substantial nutritional inputs at a fraction of the cost of school meals, making them an appealing option for service delivery in food-insecure contexts. Both costs and effects should be considered carefully when designing the appropriate school-based intervention. The costs estimates in this analysis do not include all school-level costs and are therefore lower-bound estimates of full implementation costs.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: March 1, 2009
- 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.
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