The expected effects of the National School Nutrition Programme: Evidence from a case study in Cape Town, Western Cape
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School feeding programmes have become a worldwide poverty reduction strategy that are designed to enhance human capital, i.e. nutrition and education. In South Africa, the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) began in 1994 and it was designed to enhance learning capacity, to support nutrition education in schools and to promote school gardens. The purpose of this study is to explore whether the expected impacts (nutrition and education) of the NSNP in Cape Town have been achieved. The study used the theory of change as an attempt to explore the expected impacts of the programme and it involved a qualitative research approach. The data was collected using semi-structured interviews. Note-taking and observations of non-verbal behaviour techniques were also used to capture any relevant information. The respondents were 4 school principals, 4 teacher coordinators, 4 food handlers, 4 members of the School Governing Body and one staff member from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) of the Western Cape. Findings from the global literature show that the impacts of school feeding programmes are quite mixed (between nutrition and education). This study has found that the NSNP in Cape Town has improved food security, i.e. reduced short-term hunger (but not necessarily nutrition) and it gave energy to the learners that helped them to actively participate in learning. It also eliminated some negative class behaviours and it functioned as an additional meal to some poor learners. On the education front, it enhanced school attendance, class participation and possibly improved learner performance. However, the programme has also experienced some challenges, i.e. the food quality and quantity, targeting system (the quintile system) that excluded some poor learners from receiving NSNP meals and food gardens were not producing sufficient food because they were small and poorly maintained. This study recommends that rigorous impact evaluation of the NSNP in Cape Town is required in order to address the challenges that were identified as well as to enhance the programme so that it can achieve the desired impacts.