A school feeding programme providing ready-to-drink porridge to pupils in Grade 1, 2 and 3 in select public primary schools in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) is slated to be upscaled.

This is after a successful pilot of the Super Porridge School Feeding Programme in Isiolo, Samburu and Garissa Counties which has been benefiting 5,000 pupils since its 2022 launch.

During the next academic year, the initiative will be expanded to reach 50,000 pupils with each of them receiving a 250ml packet of fortified porridge daily to enhance their class attendance and concentration levels.

Speaking during an assessment tour of Mwangaza Primary School, one of three beneficiaries of the pilot programme in Isiolo County, Tetra Pak MD Jonathan Kinisu said the super porridge programme has significantly enhanced attendance and concentration by pupils.

“I hope this programme will be a catalyst to improve education attendance and attention in class. We intend to scale up the programme to reach 50,000 learners starting the next academic year. Our mission is to enhance food accessibility and ensure that it is safe,” Kinisu said.

The “Porridge 4 Education Programme” is being implemented by the National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK), a semi-autonomous government agency under the Ministry of Education tackling issues of food safety and access to safe nutrition in schools.

The programme, which develops the liquid ready-to-drink cereal-based “Super Porridge” for pupils, is a collaboration between Tetra Pak, Tetra Pak Food for Development, Ingredion, DSM, and Jetlak Foods Limited and is being piloted in three counties.

Tetra Pak East Africa MD Jonathan Kinisu and Communication Head Stella Ondimu distribute the super porridge to pupils at Mwangaza Primary School. PHOTO/MAC OTANI

NACONEK CEO Harun Mohamed Yussuf says the programme fits into the government’s plan to achieve universal education and boost health and nutrition of school going children in Kenya.

“The Porridge 4 Education Programme seeks to return out-of-school learners and we appeal to the county government and other partners to continue supporting school feeding programmes to improve education outcomes,” said Yussuf in a statement read on his behalf by NACONEK Coordinator Beatrice Ooko.

The super porridge is produced using locally sourced crops, and pays special attention to locally grown climate resilient crops that contain maize, soy, sorghum and sweet potato and is highly fortified with 15 micronutrients including Vitamin A, C, E, Calcium, Zinc and Iron.

“We get the ingredients from smallholder farmers. The super porridge has 15 micronutrients to improve the cognitive abilities and also reduce malnutrition,” stated Unibrain Technologies Limited Executive Director Oscar Makokha.

“The school attendance has improved significantly in Mwangaza Primary School since they started taking the porridge,” added Ingredion Managing Director Ken Ouma.

Abdulrazak Ali Demo, the headteacher at Mwangaza Primary School said the super porridge feeding programme has seen the school attendance improve to almost 100 per cent since 2022.

“The programme has seen the pupils realise improved retention, apart from improving attendance and performance in class,” he said.

According to the Kenya Population and Housing Census (KPHC), the number of children attending school in Kenya is 18.3 million with a national enrolment average of 85 per cent.

However, 90 per cent of the 2.4 million children not attending school live in the ASAL regions.