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‘Children must not go to school on empty stomachs’

Donating mealie-meal, flour, sugar, cooking oil and other assorted items to Hope and Faith Community School in Lusaka’s Ng’ombe Compound last Saturday, China Jiangxi deputy director Lu Wenji said no child deserved to go to school hungry.

Lu said “we all need to work together to improve” the lives of the children and that rich or poor, every child had the birth right to be in school and that concerted efforts were required to achieve that.

“School life of children must be exciting if high passing rates are to be recorded. And it can only be exciting if the basic requirements are met. Children must not go to class on empty stomachs, and to achieve this we must work together to ensure that those that are in need are fed and well looked after,” said Lu. “That is the only way to secure the future. Children deserve to be happy and in school most of the time.”

In poor households, it’s often food that gets sacrificed to pay rent, utilities, and health bills. Parents or older siblings will go without food so the youngest can eat. Or cheap non-nutritious food may be the only affordable option.

In situations like these, school feeding programmes, linked to household income, are critical for feeding children. And this should not be left to charities. The government needs to move in.

It’s not debatable that children need nutritious food to stay healthy and learn at school. Numerous and broad studies have shown that school meal programmes reduce poor health and food insecurity.

Every teacher dreams of a classroom and school where all pupils are in rapt attention. Sadly, this is not possible when pupils come to school hungry and cannot manage to muster the focus needed to learn. The need for food can be all consuming, and it’s like the pain of the hunger is like eating at you. You’re mostly thinking about food because all you want to do is eat, get rid of the hunger feeling. You can’t really do your work.

Our nation’s children deserve to experience school life filled with fun, not hunger pangs.

Our country is full of hungry children, not learning anything in school.

And hunger is generally rising in the country. And there are broader signs that the country is not on an easy march to eradicating hunger.

Data on child malnutrition rates based on household surveys reveal a rising absolute number of malnourished children which represents more than just a blip or a bad harvest.

And a problem’s solution doesn’t need to be a mirror image of its cause, and school feeding may help make progress.

The economist Milton Friedman famously argued that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but when it comes to food insecurity, it’s our children that are paying for it.

Across the country, pupils continue to go to school hungry every day.

It’s time to address our schools’ food crisis. Zambia’s children deserve free lunches.

It’s very hard to think clearly, let alone learn, when you are hungry.

Many studies have shown that children who go to school hungry are not only negatively affected physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Although food insecurity and hunger is harmful to any individual, it is particularly detrimental among young children’s potential for long–term success. The health problems that occur in children affected by hunger go far beyond just stunted growth or weakened bodies. It also curbs their ability to participate fully in school and in social interactions.

In studies examining the cognitive outcomes of hunger they found that food-insecure children scored lower than their peers on a measure of child intelligence and general achievement test scores.

The lack of nutrition and lack of stability in eating habits are incredibly damaging to the brain function. When you’re hungry, it’s much harder to concentrate, focus and retain information.

These children are more likely to suffer from common illnesses which hinders their overall attendance in school. It’s hard to do well in school, when you’re not well enough to attend.

We need to give all our nation’s children the tools they really need to succeed in school, and life: basic nutrition.

Let’s provide meals that fuel the minds and bodies of these children. With proper nutrition they can grow healthy, think clearly and learn efficiently in school. They deserve to be set up for the success they’re so desperately working, wishing and striving for. They deserve a brighter future and that starts with a meal.

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