Currently hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon still has the highest per capita refugee concentration in the world. From a nutritional standpoint, comparable data on Lebanese and Syrian refugee schoolchildren do not exist, however Lebanon shows signs of a “double-burden of malnutrition"; the co-existence of undernutrition and overnutrition.
In 2016, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched an emergency School Feeding Programme (SFP) as part of its support to Lebanon in reaching Sustainable Development Goal 2 on Zero Hunger. This SFP, which consists of a healthy snack pack (fruit, and nuts or dairy), is provided to Lebanese and Syrian refugee children attending primary public schools in the most vulnerable communities across Lebanon. Since its implementation, regular post-distribution monitoring has been conducted; however, the programme's effectiveness at achieving its goals has yet to be assessed.
Researchers from the Center for Research on Population and Health (CRPH) at the Faculty of Health Sciences conducted a study to examine the effects of providing a daily school snack on children's nutritional, social and educational outcomes, and to explore perceptions of stakeholders towards the emergency SFP and its potential effects. This study is the first to assess outcomes in both national and refugee children, highlighting lessons learned from the implementation of this emergency SFP with implications on advocacy for the scale-up of these programmes.
Results showed that a daily healthy snack potentially acts as an incentive to improve children's nutritional outcomes, school engagement, sense of belonging, equality between students and improvement in children's attendance and retention in public schools.
Given the current changes in the overall food security situation in Lebanon and the anticipated increase in poverty rates, expansion of the school feeding programme has the potential to improve diet diversity, food security as well as increase retention in schools.
To read the full study, please click here.