I attended a small part of a 3 day conference on a Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme being led by the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) at Imperial College—IDS is one of the partners on the evaluation programme involving Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Edoardo Masset and Richard Longhurst amongst others.
HGSF tries to set up school procurement of food for school meals in such a way that it stimulates the local food economy while improving school enrolment, attendance and achievement as well as food and nutrition security. Achieving just one of these outcomes (educational, nutritional, local economy) is a challenge. Nevertheless we do know that there are certain conditions under which all 3 objectives can be realised (see Adelman et. al. 2006 for a nice review).
The HGSF programme is working with governments and other national partners to build on regular school feeding programmes (where food is sourced nationally but not locally) to implement and test various HGSF approaches. From the 3 presentations I was able to catch, a few reflections:
• HGSF is such a neat idea, there is a danger that we can get a bit evangelical about it—we need to give the evidence every chance to speak
• Assessing impact is difficult, because there is no real way of aggregating across multiple outcomes–the PCD team is working on this
• The systematic reviews of School feeding Programmes (not the programmes that rely on locally sourced food) show how sensitive impact is to key design features such as calling the food a snack versus a meal (this has a big impact on food substitution away from the child in the home—families being more likely to treat something framed as a snack in an additive way). This means that there is a need to build in these variants into impact evaluations, which is expensive if done using surveys (as it increases sample sizes dramatically)
• This design sensitivity has implications for capacity development and for sustainability. Innovation and adaptation require capacities at the institutional, organisational and individual levels, so capacity development efforts are intrinsic to the scaling of HGSF
• The design sensitivity also implies that unless the HGSF programmes are “doubly” home grown (i.e. developed locally as well as using local food) they may well fall apart when the outsiders leave
• Ultimately this potential for scaling and sustainability via established institutions (i.e. schools) might be the trump cards that HGSF has when we benchmark its impacts against interventions like public works and cash transfers.
This PCD programme is led by Lesley Drake and Aulo Geli – website is here—I look forward to seeing how the programme overcomes some of these tough challenges.