Participants of the 2014 ForumOver 250 people attended the 16th Annual Global Child Nutrition Forum in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa from September 29 to October 3, 2014. 10 ministers attended, along with more than 60 other high-level officials- 38 countries were officially represented. All 38 countries signed the Forum Communiqué, stressing that home-grown (locally-sourced) school feeding is an investment with tangible, multi-sector benefits. The communiqué also highlights nutrition and diet diversity, agriculture and purchasing from smallholder farmers, and South-South collaboration.

The presentations on the core topic, “Nutrition in School Feeding Programs” were well received and drew excellent questions and discussion. The “Nutrition and Learning” presentation by Dr. Ronald E. Kleinman (Chief of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Partners Pediatrics, and the Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School) was especially thought-provoking and appreciated. The conclusions he presented were:

Dr. Kleinman addresses the Forum“Learning is affected by nutritional status throughout childhood and adolescence as the central nervous system develops […] Internal and external environmental factors, including behaviors, health and socio-economic status, interact with nutritional status to determine a child’s ability to learn and function […] School feeding programs offer the opportunity to reduce the risk of adverse external environmental factors, support good nutrition and encourage a healthy lifestyle.”

Countries present during a lightning roundA Forum “country questionnaire” allowed us to pilot a new format and to gain information about participating countries’ school feeding programs. A few countries reported the number of jobs created through their school feeding programs. This data is very new and significant. An impressive example is from Osun State, Nigeria, where job creation (for youth and women) is an explicit goal of the “O-Meals” program. A significant number of countries report now having goals linking local farmers/ agriculture to their school meal programs.

View a video recap of the Forum here

The official communiqué is available here

The official Forum website is www.gcnf2014.org

A more comprehensive Forum report is being prepared, and will be available shortly on www.gcnf.org