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WAWIRA NJIRU; No child should miss school because of food

July 10, 2018

By Brenda Kerubo

Terry Wangechi is very excited to join University, a dream come true for the 20 year old girl who plans to study political science. You see, Wangechi is part of the first cohort of Food for Education- an organization that works to improve nutrition and education outcomes for children in public schools by giving them a nutritious lunch while in school.

Wawira Njiru is the Founder and Executive Director of Food for Education. Having been raised in Kenya, she moved to Australia in 2010 to study a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Food Science and graduated in 2013.

She founded the organization in 2012 to address inequality in education and food supply in her community in Ruiru, Kenya, about three kilometres from the capital, Nairobi. Though school fees for primary education was scrapped by the government in 2003, fewer children were attending school because of lack of food.

“When I started my degree at the University of South Australia, I learnt a lot about the impact food has not only on health, but on political stability and security. Food insecurity drives many people all over the world from their homes to the streets to steal, beg and engage in other forms of violence. I grew up in Ruiru where many children were being forced to choose between staying in class to learn or going out to the streets to beg for food. In many schools, children would prefer to look for work or steal just to get one meal a day,” Njira explains.

“we did a needs assessment of schools in the area to identify the most effective intervention to benefit most children and a feeding program was identified as something that the schools’ and community really needed but did not have the resources. although i didn’t have immense resources as an undergrad student, i mobilised those around me to raise some money and start a feeding program for school children that would enable them to stay in school and learn,” says wawira.

Wawira held a community dinner in Adelaide, Australia in November 2011 and raised 125,000 shillings. She used the money to construct a make shift kitchen, purchase an energy saving cooker and utensils. The social entrepreneur started providing lunch in January, 2012 to 25 poor school going children in the area including Terry Wangechi, who was in her 8th year of primary school at the time. Wangechi was living with her grandmother, siblings and cousins because her mother had passed away from HIV.

This is how Food for Education operates; a team of 18 provides the subsidized meal through a social enterprise called Double Portion that delivers meals to corporates and private institutions. Wawira and her team then use the profits to subsidize the food for student meals. Parents also contribute to the cost of the meals. They have also partnered with corporate sponsors like IDEO.org, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Mulago Foundation among others that focus on improving the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities.

Picture courtesy of Capital

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