Could School Dinners Eliminate Poverty?

Malnutrition is costing Latin American governments billions of dollars according to a recent UN report.

The economic cost of malnutrition is highest in Central America costing up to 11% of a country’s GDP, as for Guatemala which spends $3.1 billion a year.

Malnourished children are more vulnerable to illness and disease, placing a higher burden on overstretched healthcare systems. They perform poorly in schools, lacking energy and concentration, and often have to repeat school years or drop out, lowering opportunities for income generation as adults.

Malnutrition therefore is not just a physical issue, but an economic one. The World Food Programme believes that it would cost only a fraction of what is currently spent to solve the problem.

As 80% of a child’s brain develops in the first two years, tackling nutrition both in mother and child during infancy can greatly reduce the risk of chronic malnutrition passing down through the family.

Chile has demonstrated that promoting nutrition programmes and breastfeeding can be successful, having dramatically lowered the levels of chronic malnutrition over the last thirty years. This has encouraged other Latin American countries to target undernourished infants in the hope of repeating such success.

By providing nutritious free meals at school, a country can invest in the education of its citizens and lower the economic costs of malnutrition later in life. School dinners improve concentration, leading to better grades, and encourage parents to send their children to school.

So perhaps school dinners could help to eliminate poverty after all. Can someone give Jamie Oliver a call?

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Published in: on October 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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