Food insecurity threatens dietary diversity, nutritional status and physical, mental and social health of vulnerable populations. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are protracted refugees with fragile livelihoods, high rates of poverty and food insecurity.
Studies have shown that food insecurity in this population is associated with low household income, is more common in households with female heads and results in poor quality diets, particularly a reduction in fresh food consumption. In this population, only 13% of women are employed, however the enrollment rate of 7–12-year-old children in school reaches 95%.
The aim of this applied research was to evaluate the impact of a community partnership on some of the root causes of food insecurity in Palestinian refugees, such as employment and income-generating potential of women, educational attainment, access to food-related assets and mental health.The study consisted of a two-pronged approach:
1) the establishment of community kitchens as small business enterprises where women were trained in food preparation, food safety and business entrepreneurship
2) the development of a school feeding program for children aged 5 to 12 years catered by the trained women from the community kitchens.
Working with UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA)'s social services program, we recruited already existing community-based women's organizations to participate in the study and UNRWA elementary schools. The school feeding program was designed as a school-based cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a matched pair design, and 8-month follow-up of children aged 5-12 years. Schools were randomly assigned to 2 groups: intervention including school meal plus nutrition and health education or control including nutrition and health education only. Process, formative and outcome evaluation was conducted.
Research Timeline: 2013-2017
- Hala Ghattas (PI), Associate Research Professor and Interim Director, CRPH
- Nadine Sahyoun
- Zeina Jamaluddine, Reseach Assistant, CRPH
- Nestlé Foundation for the Study of Problems of Nutrition in the World