World Food Day: helping Syrian refugee children to beat hunger and learn

Health and education convergence

Theirworld snack programme for students at Mtein School in Lebanon Picture: Theirworld/Yara Harake


World Food Day is a day of action against hunger. On October 16, people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger.

Many of us know the short-term and long-term effects hunger can have on children – but a hidden side of hunger is its ability to hinder learning and understanding.

Children need food to fuel their learning, play and development and hunger can prevent students from making the most of school, no matter how hard they try.

At Theirworld – the children’s charity behind A World at School – we understand this. That is why we’re committed to giving children the best start in life and provide the resources they need to achieve their full potential.

We’re working to support the education of children affected by emergencies and conflict all over the world, and especially in response to the conflict in Syria where we are seeing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Students get a healthy snack at Mtein School Picture: Theirworld/Yara Harake


In Turkey and Lebanon we’re piloting low-cost interventions which have the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes for children affected by the Syrian conflict if taken to scale.

In Turkey we’re exploring language learning and psychosocial support programmes as a means to improve refugee integration and learning, while in Lebanon we’re piloting new forms of digital learning and educational technologies and exploring ways to improve access to education for the most marginalised.

But we’re also seeing that many children in Lebanon are arriving at school hungry – and that this is affecting their ability to concentrate and learn in class.

According to the Strategic Review of Food and Nutrition Security in Lebanon, the poverty rate among Lebanese nationals is thought to have risen around 4% over the last five years, while 70% of Syrian refugees cannot meet their basic food needs. Our own research has shown that this food insecurity has a direct impact on students’ grades.

To counter this Theirworld has this month launched a school-based snack programme, which aims to address increased food insecurity among students and improve educational outcomes.

We’re providing a small nutritious snack and carton of milk for every student at the start of the school day, to improve their concentration in the classroom and also to act as an incentive to get kids into school and help them stay there.

Istoc Primary School in Istanbul, which was visited recently by Theirworld Picture: Theirworld/Jessica Bryant


The progamme is low cost – at less than $1 per child per day – and supports the local economy.

Najah Banna, director of one of the schools benefitting from this pilot, said: “The snack programme is important for both the school and the students.

“We know some students don’t eat before coming to school and we see they lack energy during the day.

“Already after just a few days we are seeing an early change in the students engagement in class and, what’s more, students are getting used to eating healthily which will help them in the long term.”

Theirworld’s school-based snack programme aims to reducing short-term hunger and contribute to improving food insecurity among students, so that they are better able to concentrate in class and ultimately learn more, so they can achieve their full potential.

This World Food Day, let’s remember the hidden costs of hunger and do all we can to ensure every child had the nourishment and care they need to grow and learn.

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