The Research Consortium is a global, multi-sectoral partnership of academic, scientific and technical institutions, and individuals, promoting quality research on the health, nutrition, well-being, education and development of school-age children and adolescents. The Consortium the first initiative of the School Meals Coalition, which aims to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a healthy, nutritious meal in school by 2030.
Academic, research and development partners are working together to fill the global knowledge gap in school health and nutrition.
Investment in health has never been as important for education as it is today. At the beginning of 2020, national school feeding programmes around the world delivered school meals to 388 million children each day in 161 countries, feeding more children than at any time in human history. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a decade of global progress in school nutrition programmes to a halt and resulted in a major education crisis, excluding many children from their only reliable meal of the day.
This situation has highlighted the need for school health and nutrition programmes that are more inclusive, efficient, and resilient to ensure the health and well-being of school children, while providing a safety net, creating human capital, supporting national growth and promoting economic development.
In this context, over 110 UN member states, UN agencies, think tanks, and NGOs, launched the international School Meals Coalition at the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit to help countries around the world re-establish, increase, and improve school health and nutrition programmes.
To ensure that programming is evidence-based, LSHTM, with financing from the UNWHP and Dubai Cares, established the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition in May 2021. The Research Consortium is a global, multi-sectoral partnership of academic, scientific, and technical institutions and individuals, that aims to promote quality research on the health, nutrition, well-being, education and development of school age children and adolescents.
The Research Consortium is guided by these four core principles:
As part of its 10-year strategy plan, together with its partners, the Research Consortium aims to:
- Provide evidence on the effectiveness of school feeding programmes for learning, social and physical outcomes of children and youth across the world to make the case for investment in school-based health and nutrition programmes; and
- Provide policymakers with programmatic guidance on the optimal policies to be implemented with regard to health, nutrition and education.
The Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition was launched in May 2021 as the first initiative developed to support the objectives of the School Meals Coalition. The launch marked the start of a 10-year collaboration of academic, research and development partners to address and share strategic research for evidence-based decision-making on school health and nutrition.
The work of the Research Consortium is facilitated by a Secretariat hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and reports to the member states of the School Meals Coalition. This structure ensures independence of research generated through the Consortium.
The Consortium comprises academic institutions, researchers and development partners and functions through a global network of Communities of Practice, which cover four main areas: (i) Impact & Evidence; (ii) Analytics & Metrics; (iii) Good Examples; and (iv) Nutrition Measurement.
The Communities of Practice are bolstered by cross-cutting themes to ensure excellence and relevance to a broad audience. These include:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion of all stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on geographic diversity;
- Ensuring sustainable financing by estimating the true cost of programs, supporting countries to secure external financing if necessary, and increasing domestic financing for national programmes if feasible; and
- Cultivating talent among students and early career researchers to professionalise school feeding.
The success of the Consortium relies on equitable research partnerships and the support of a broad range of public, private, and multilateral partners who share a commitment to improving child development, education and wellbeing. The Consortium, together with the four Communities of Practice, is engaging with a wide network of actors around the world, including academics and early career researchers, international finance institutions, donors, governments, and implementing partners.
The Research Consortium is facilitating collaboration between a wide range of international partners from academia, government, multilateral organisations and civil society to build evidence and generate independent policy guidance on school health and nutrition.
The Consortium's Communities of Practice are focusing on four strategic priority areas: Impact & Evidence; Analytics & Metrics; Good Examples; and Nutrition Measurement. Although each of the Communities of Practice have specific areas of exploration, they are together evaluating crucial, often overlooked areas such as: returns to gender targeted programmes (e.g. from girls’ education, especially in secondary education); peace-building (e.g. stability post-conflict); climate change resilience (e.g. especially from Home Grown School Feeding); and resilience to pandemics, including lessons learned from COVID-19.
Activities being carried out by the Communities of Practice include:
- Academics at the University of Ottawa are updating a Cochrane/Campbell systematic review to assess the impact of school health and nutrition in the key education metrics that are used to select “smart buys” for the sector.
- Economists from the University of Oxford are assessing the impact of school health and nutrition interventions on learning-adjusted years of schooling (LAYS).
- Economists from Harvard University, together with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), are quantifying the value-for-money of school health and nutrition interventions in the SADC region as well as in individual countries, starting with Malawi.
- The Consortium is convening country experts to develop case studies on national school meals to build a collective evidence base on service delivery methodology and to facilitate more effective implementation of interventions targeted to school-age children and adolescents.
- The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition are using the Biomarkers of Nutrition for Development (BOND) platform to establish a common framework of nutritional indicators to monitor the nutritional status of school age children and adolescents to develop, support, and evaluate efforts to meet nutritional needs and optimise outcomes.
Communities of Practice - Strategic focus areas
- Impact & Evidence
This Community of Practice employs economic methodologies to assess cost-effective and sustainable school feeding programming, with a focus on the Global South, starting in Africa.
- Analytics & Metrics
This Community of Practice focuses on estimating the multi-sectoral benefit-cost ratios for African programmes at scale; in terms of returns to human capital (including education, health and nutrition), returns to agriculture and local economies and returns to social protection, especially the increasing use by countries of SHN programmes as social safety nets protecting the population from social shocks (such as the COVID-19 pandemic).
- Good Examples
This Community of Practice coordinates with government partners to develop country case studies to establish the enabling environment and operational structures that facilitate robust national school health programs based on lessons learned from both long-established programs and those reaching the highest number of children.
- Nutrition measurement
This Community of Practice convenes nutrition and human development experts to develop and pilot nutritional intake and food security indicators for children and adolescents needed to optimise human capital formation.
Investment in the first 1000 days of life remains a priority for the health sector, but there is growing recognition of the need to invest in the next 7,000 days of child development (the school-age years) to sustain the earlier gains achieved. More research and action are needed in the health, nutrition and development of school-age children and adolescents. Academic, research and development partners are working together to fill the global knowledge gap in school health and nutrition.
- January 2022
LSHTM Seminar organised by the School-Based Interventions Interest Group, UK, 26th January
LSHTM staff and their collaborators are invited to join this seminar to learn about the School Meals Coalition, the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition, and to have a deep dive into three areas of research: (i) value-for-money of school meals; (ii) the effect of school food on learning-adjusted years of schooling; and (iii) the current evidence and impact of school health interventions
- February 2022
OECD Webinar: How to Make Better Policies for School Meals, 10th February
Following on from the Making Better Policies for Food Systems report the OECD’s Trade and Agriculture Directorate is now focusing on how to overcome evidence gaps in food systems to support policy makers around the world develop better policies for food systems. School meal programmes are included as part of a deep dive on food assistance programmes in OECD countries. As a knowledge partner to the UNFSS process the OECD has convened a webinar to discuss school meal programmes within OECD states. Professor Bundy will present on the launch of the School Meals Coalition, the Research Consortium, and the efforts of the Good Practices Community of Practice to document lessons learned from long-standing national school meal programs.
The webinar will be held from 13:00-14:30 CET. Please register here.
Global Initiative for Children’s Surgery, US, 20th February
Professor Bundy will present to a global audience of surgeons on the opportunities for intervention within the first 8,000 days of life, with an emphasis on preventable disability among children and adolescents. Professor Bundy will also provide a forward look to the fourth edition of the Disease Control Priorities and the vision to include an emphasis on the lifecourse within this publication.
- May 2022
ASSIT FM, Glasgow; Annual Meeting of the Scottish Local Authorities’ Food Management Services: recognising the introduction of Universal Free School Meals for primary school children in Scotland - 16th-18th May
Professor Bundy will present the keynote speech on the benefits of school food interventions worldwide, and the role in reopening schools and recovering from the COVID pandemic.
- July 2021
Seventh International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Child Development, Beijing (Government of China and China Development Research Foundation) - 24th July
The conference established the factors that allowed China to declare the End of Absolute Poverty in December 2020. Professor Bundy spoke on a panel focused on child nutrition and food safety under the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the outcome of the 100 year “Compulsory Education Students Nutrition Programme”.
Food Systems Pre-Summit, Rome (UN Food agencies; planning for the UN Food Systems Summit, New York City, September) - 26th - 28th July
The UN World Food Programme convened governments, agencies, and academia to solidify commitments for the School Meals Coalition, which was launched at the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021.
Global Education Summit, hybrid virtual/in-person conference - 28th - 29th July
The Global Partnership for Education hosted a virtual summit featuring 70 presentations as part of the Financing GPE 2021-2025 campaign.
- August 2021
Annual Conference on Ensuring Food and Nutrition Security, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai: from the originators of the Green Revolution - 9th August
Professor Bundy presented the keynote on nutrition security policies that support women and children.
- September 2021
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO Health Network Brunch): School as a platform for sexual and reproductive health and rights interventions - 2nd September
At the invitation of the FCDO, Professors Donald Bundy and Aoife Doyle presented on the role of health/gender policies to promote adolescent girls’ retention in secondary schools.
UN Food Systems Summit, New York City, 23rd September
The UN Secretary-General convened the 2021 Food Systems Summit with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda and meeting the challenges of climate change. The School Meals Coalition was launched alongside the Summit.
- October 2021
LACA, Birmingham, the annual meeting of the UK-wide professional body representing school nutrition services; 550 organisations including local authorities, schools, academies, institutions and the private sector - 13th October
Professor Bundy gave the keynote presentation on the global impact of school meal service interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Food Day - 16th October
In celebration of World Food Day, the World Food Programme UK Office, together with the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition and the Chefs’ Manifesto, hosted an event to develop and strengthen the network of school feeding stakeholders in the UK.
All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food Meeting, House of Commons, London - 21st October
Professor Bundy provided an update on the structure, 10-year agenda and roles of the Global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition.
Sowing the Seeds of a Movement, UK, 26th October
The World Food Programme, OmVed Gardens, and the Research Consortium on School Health and Nutrition hosted a diverse group of individuals working in the area of school food in the UK to exchange experiences and lessons learned.
- November 2021
UK National School Meals Week 2021, 8th-12th November
OmVed Gardens, the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition, and the World Food Programme, UK jointly authored an opinion piece in celebration of the UK National School Meals Week, entitled School Food: What Have we Learned from the UK’s 115 Years of Experience.
Lecture series on nutrition organised by World Food Programme LAC Region and Economic Policy Research Institute, Panama, 11th November
Professor Bundy lectured on school meals, their reach, and impact across Latin America as part of a professional development training course designed for the World Food Programme LAC Region staff.
Universal Provision of Free School Meals, Scotland, 17th November
Scotland has committed to extend universal provision of free school meals to all children in primary schools. The Scottish Poverty and Inequity Research Unit convened global school meal experts to reflect on early progress in delivering this in Scotland and we learn from wider work to extend school meal provision across the globe. Professor Bundy presented an overview of international work to on the universal provision of school meals. The full recording can be accessed here.
French School Feeding Network, France, 18th November
The French School Feeding Network invited researchers to present their research experience on school feeding to its network members, with a focus on “Ma cantine autrement” in Montpellier and "Cantine égalité" in Paris and its ramifications in Madagascar and India. Researchers discussed the success factors, barriers, and impacts of school catering projects.
Bilateral Meetings with UN Agencies, Italy, 22nd-26th November
The Secretariat of the Consortium organised bilateral meetings with Rome-based UN agencies, including the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agriculture Development, and with the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Coalition for Healthy School Food, Canada, 24th November
Professor Bundy joined a panel focused on big picture insights for implementing a school food programme in Canada. His intervention provided a global lens to school meal programs.
Nutrition During the Next 7,000 Days of Life: Middle Childhood and Adolescence, Side Event of the Nutrition for Growth Summit, Japan, 29th November
This event brought together the government of Finland, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Research Consortium for School Health & Nutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to discuss how practitioners can address the nutritional needs of school-age children and adolescents.
- December 2021
Seminar in Nutrition and Global Health. Hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA, 6th December
Professor Bundy presented how the covid pandemic has changed how countries care for the world’s schoolchildren, and how the pandemic has prompted a rethinking of the “next 7000 days” in a young person’s life. Watch his presentation here.
Nutrition for Growth Summit, Japan, 7th-8th December
The flagship N4G Summit was hosted by the Government of Japan in December 7-8, 2021. The event convened a cross-section of stakeholders to announce final financial and policy commitments and chart the path toward 2030 with concrete recommendations to the global community.
RewirED Summit, United Arab Emirates, 12th-14th December
RewirED – a global platform to rewire education for a prosperous and sustainable future –is organized by Dubai Cares, in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai and in close coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. On 14 December, Professor Bundy presented on the Research Consortium at a high-level investor’s roundtable and also moderated a session on financing approaches non-state actors utilize to finance school health and nutrition interventions. Watch the videos here and here.
10th Anniversary of the Nutrition Improvement Plan, hosted by the China Development Research Foundation, China, 18th December
The theme of this conference was Investing in Child Nutrition for Healthy Future with a focus on the achievement of China’s Nutrition Improvement Plan for Rural Students in Compulsory Education. Professor Bundy presented as part of the Child Nutrition and Rural Vitalisation plenary.
Virtual launch of the Global School Health and Research Consortium - 27th May
Read the annotated agenda of the launch of the global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition
Read the research priorities identified at the symposium of the global Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition
Full recordings of the Launch and Symposium: