watkins27_Karen DuceyGetty Images_school meals Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Schoolchildren Deserve Free Lunch

Millions of children are falling behind in their education as a result of the pandemic, malnutrition, and poverty. But with well-designed and properly financed school-meal programs, governments could help to ameliorate this trend, sparing millions from a lifelong cycle of deprivation.

LONDON – As children across Europe and the United States start a new school year, the world’s governments are gearing up for their own big education moment. At the United Nations Transforming Education Summit (September 16-19), they have a chance to tackle a global learning crisis that has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising levels of child poverty and malnutrition.

They should start by mobilizing behind an old cause with an urgent new resonance: the provision of free school meals to children who would otherwise be left too hungry to learn.

Pandemic school closures deprived hundreds of millions of children of learning opportunities. Poorer countries closed their classrooms for longer than richer countries, with 1-2 entire school years lost across much of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. And in rich and poor countries alike, opportunities for remote learning were heavily skewed toward children in wealthier households.

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