School meals: hot, nourishing and best enjoyed with friends

World Food Programme Insight
3 min readJul 5, 2023


Danuko is a visually impaired student benefitting from WFP’s homegrown school feeding programme in Ethiopia. Photo: WFP/Michael Tewelde

By Elshaday Gebeyehu

Danuko’s dream is to be the president of Ethiopia and to inspire all the children in his country. A student at Shera Primary school in the drought-affected town of Omorate in southern Ethiopia, Danuko is one of 5.6 million children in Ethiopia supported by the World Food Programme’s (WFP) homegrown school feeding programme in partnership with the Government of Ethiopia.

Three years of drought has left 11 million people facing hunger in this and other parts of southern and southeastern Ethiopia. For many students in this region, school meals are often the only nutritious meal they receive each day. Lunchtime is Danuko’s favourite part of the day.

“We have fish on Thursdays and yesterday we had tomatoes, kale and beans,” he says. “Before we started getting meals at school, we didn’t even know what onions, papayas, vegetables, or beans looked like, let alone their taste!”

Danuko is visually impaired and relies on his younger sister Araman to walk with him to school every day.

Azuro (R) supports his friend Danuko to reach their classroom. Photo: WFP/Michael Tewelde

“Araman is the only one of my three sisters who is allowed to go to school,” says Danuko. “My father says the others must help with chores around the house and its good that I am like this, because if Araman didn’t have to lead me to school, she wouldn’t be able to come at all.”

Once Danuko reaches the school gates, his friend Azuro is waiting for him and guides him the rest of the way to their classroom.

“I enjoy having lunch with Azuro because he tells me what each meal looks like and what colour the tomatoes are,” says Danuko.“

WFP’s homegrown school meals don’t only benefit the children. This innovative approach links the schools with local smallholder farmers, providing them with a predictable outlet for their produce, leading to a stable income, more investments and higher productivity. The children enjoy healthy, diversified food, making it more likely that they will stay in school, perform better and improves their adult job prospects.

“The hot and dusty weather makes it difficult for the children to learn. Without lunch the children would spend their days looking for shade or sitting by the river to escape the scorching heat,” says Tilahun Kayite — Danuko’s teacher. “School meals make the children more alert, attentive and active.”

Lunchtime is Danuko’s favourite part of the day. Photo: WFP/Michael Tewelde

However, Danuko worries about his two sisters who are not at school; “If my father sees how well Araman is doing, he might also allow the others to come to school,” he says.

The homegrown school feeding programme in Ethiopia is possible through generous contributions from the European Commission, The United States Department of Agriculture McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, The KFW Development Bank and the Governments of Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom.