When the government of Ghana mandated the closing of its schools in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19, Chef Elijah Amoo Addo feared for the children and families served by Food For All Africa (FFAA).
School feeding had been a feature of FFAA’s programs since 2016, when Elijah initiated programs in 12 schools across Ghana. Around the world, school feeding programs are a proven strategy to reduce child hunger and improve school attendance and academic performance. Often these programs are sponsored by governments, but in some cases, like the schools where FFAA works, food banks and other non-governmental organizations are needed to fill critical gaps.
In 2016, FFAA established school feeding kitchens in the poorest and hardest to reach primary schools, providing a daily hot meal to improve students’ nutrition and ability to focus on school. Through the use of mobile technology, FFAA recovered nutritious surplus food from a network of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, farmers, and growers to supply fresh ingredients to school kitchens, reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
And then, in March 2020, everything had to change. Schools were closed. Stay at home orders were announced by the government. And Elijah and the FFAA team found themselves unable to serve the 5,354 children/families they had been reaching through this program.
But Elijah was not daunted.
With support from GFN, FFAA was able to quickly shift its school feeding kitchens to a weekly home delivery program, guaranteeing a lifeline of support for vulnerable families during lockdown. “GFN staff supported us with best practices, operational guidelines and regular virtual meetings that enabled us to effectively support our beneficiaries during this critical time,” shared Elijah.
Photo: Food For All Africa
In addition to technical assistance, GFN also provided grant funding to FFAA to enhance the food bank’s infrastructure and logistical capacity to meet the growing demand for emergency food support across Ghana.
This support from GFN meant that from March 2020 – January 2021, FFAA was able to deliver 24,822 food boxes to 8,455 families who were otherwise cut off from social protection programs.
“Families expressed great relief for our weekly food boxes. For most, the days ahead looked very bleak without knowing where their next meal would come from, until we came in with support,” shared Elijah.
The school feeding program is one of multiple programs run by Food For All Africa, which in 2020 distributed over 112,000 kilos of food to over 260,000 Ghanaians in need—a 1,700% increase over 2019.
Through ongoing support from GFN and other donors, FFAA was able to conduct an impact assessment of its work during COVID-19, which has proven vital to securing large grants to help grow and sustain innovations to its school feeding program during the pandemic.
When schools reopened in Ghana in January 2021, FFAA was able to restart its in-person feeding program, providing one hot meal per day in 25 schools across five regions in Ghana. FFAA also invested in hand-washing stations, personal protection equipment, training, and new guidelines to ensure the health and safety of students and program staff.
To address ongoing needs made worse by the pandemic, FFAA plans to expand its hot meals program in rural communities along with weekend food bag delivery, and incorporate vocational training for single mothers and youth. To improve its logistical capacity, FFAA hopes to establish a satellite warehouse in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
In 2021, FFAA has set a goal to increase food recovery to over 300,000 kilos, and services to more than 350,000 people.
“Today we are better positioned to grow and sustain our work to end hunger in Ghana,” explains Elijah with pride. “GFN has strengthened our capacity as an organization to be a stabilizing force in the community, in turn allowing schools and families to focus on what is most important—our children’s future.”