How to make school meals more nutritious through fortification: 3 key learnings from the Global Child Nutrition Forum 2020

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors

  • School feeding programs are more important than ever. It is crucial that these programs are equipped with the macro-and micro-nutrients that children need to support their development.
  • At the 22nd Global Child Nutrition Forum DSM hosted a series of three workshops exploring the role of fortification in global school meal programs.
  • Read on to learn about key expert conclusions from DSM’s workshop series, and how they can be used to optimize school feeding programs worldwide.

Tackling hidden hunger at the Global Child Nutrition Forum 2020

The 22nd annual Global Child Nutrition Forum saw the public, private and development sector come together virtually for a series of events from 26 October to 12 November 2020. The forum discussed important topics around school feeding programs, especially crucial during the current climate, when both schooling and healthcare are facing global disruption. As part of the forum, DSM led three workshops exploring the role of micronutrients in a school child’s diet, the benefits of fortification in increasing the micronutrient resiliency of school meals and ways of reaching the most vulnerable populations. Read on to learn about the three key expert conclusions from DSM’s Global Child Nutrition Forum workshop series.

1. School meals are key to meeting child nutrition objectives

School meals are a vital part of ensuring optimal health for children worldwide, especially in areas where food availability is low, or when nutritious food is difficult to access or unaffordable. Children need to be well fed in order to be able to learn effectively. Evidence suggests that well-designed and nutritious school feeding programs can promote balance within children’s diets, leading to enhanced nutrition and health, decreased morbidity and increased learning capacities. However, the issue of ‘hidden hunger’ – the result of a diet that, whilst sufficient in energy intake, lacks the recommended nutritional value – demonstrates the importance of enriching school meals with added nutrients to help support children’s learning and development.

2. Fortified foods are a staple of school meals

According to the Global Survey of School Meal Programs©, 87% of initiatives worldwide include the improvement of students’ nutrition among their key objectives.1 Fortifying the staple foods that are used as ingredients in school meals is one of the main ways that programs can achieve this goal, and 68% of school meal programs make use of fortified foods in their menus. The staple foods that are most commonly fortified include oil, salt, grains or cereals such as rice, and corn-soy blends. These can be enhanced by adding vital nutrients such as iron, vitamin A, zinc, and folic acid, among others.

In addition to DSM’s work with the World Food Program in the post-pandemic recovery, we also provide science-backed, end-to-end solutions in food fortification, innovating affordable, aspirational, and accessible nutritional solutions to empower our partners’ products to change lives anywhere in the world.

3. Accessibility to nutritious school meals is even more important in the current climate

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how essential accessibility, affordability and availability of nutrient dense foods is in reaching school children. At a time where our health, and therefore our intake of nutrients which can support our health, is at the forefront of our minds, school closures have meant that 1.5 billion children were out of school in April, and 370 million of these, who were depending on receiving school meals, are now missing out.2 With job stability under threat, many families have found it more challenging to fund nutritious meals for their children during the pandemic.

These factors emphasize the critical need to provide all children with the nutritional sustenance they need to address hunger, support their health and continue their development, even when they are not able to attend school. In response to the pandemic, DSM is working closely with the World Food Program and other partners to provide school children with increased access to fortified rice, in formats which can be used in school or at home.

Looking ahead to a brighter future

The Global Child Nutrition Summit 2020 has offered important insights into the increasing importance of school meals for child nutrition and the role that fortification can play in ending some of the world’s greatest nutritional challenges. At DSM, we know that creating brighter lives for school children takes solid experience, technical expertise, and passion at every stage of the development process. As an end-to-end partner to governments, NGOs and the private sector, we are committed to ensuring these vital products and technologies are accessible to populations globally. 

Partner with DSM for access to our broad portfolio of science-backed products, customized solutions, and expert services aimed at reliably supporting your entire product life cycle, from concept to consumer. Contact us to get started.

Published on

10 January 2021

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6 min read

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References

1. ‘Preview of the Global Survey of School Meal Programs’, GCNF, https://gcnf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/GCNF_FactSheet_v3_10.26.20-1.pdf

2. ‘Education: From disruption to recovery’, Unesco, https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse  

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