By I Dewa Made Agung in Indonesia


A Free School Meal and Milk Pilot Project supporting 3,500 children in 15 schools was recently launched in Warungkiara district, Sukabumi in Indonesia.

School meals pilot in Sukabumi, Indonesia

Children eating school meals in Sukabumi, Indonesia ©IFSR


Through a partnership between the Indonesia Food Security Review (IFSR) and the Prabowo Subianto’s Foundation, the pilot will support efforts for a planned government-led Free School Meal and Milk Programme.


In the four months of the project, the initiative aims to set a good example of how the Government of Indonesia and development partners can use nutritious school meals to promote education with the view of breaking the cycle of poverty in disadvantaged communities. The project is expected to continue as one of the government’s school meals initiatives.


The free meal a day is supporting many children from poor and disadvantaged families, who normally go to school hungry.


One of the students benefitting from the project, twelve-year-old Zalfa, in grade nine at Public Junior High School 2 Bantargadung says she is eating at school for the first time since she started school in 2015.

“All I do now is focus on my schoolwork without worrying about what I will eat during lunch break. Sometimes I miss my breakfast at home and come to school hungry and that used to affect my learning and my interaction with others,” says Zalfa.


Mrs. Sukmawati Jojoh, Zalfa’s mother said she noticed her daughter suddenly developed interest in eating vegetables. “I think this could be a result of eating with others at school. It’s helping her to be more accepting of what other children enjoy eating. I am very happy with this new ‘vegetable eating’ habit, it’s a welcome change, thanks to the new project,” she says.


Another student, Damar in grade six at the same school says when he first received some fresh milk, rice, and mixed vegetables, he was pleasantly surprised. “I knew that in some schools students ate at school but never imagined that would also happen at my school. I am happy and grateful!”


He adds: “The food is delicious, and I wish we can receive the meals throughout the year.” He is quick to explain that the meals are making a huge difference to how he now views organisations that support school meals. “I think it is good to have people who are interested in providing the food that can help us to perform better in our studies. It means they care for our wellbeing. I feel very lucky to be among the children receiving food at school,” says Damar.


The Islamic Elementary School, Assyarofiah, is one of the schools that recently started providing meals to 141 students. The school principal Mr. Muhammad Shalahudin says the school meals are an extraordinary gift to the children, many of whom often come from families that cannot afford to provide home prepared school lunch packs.


So far, he explains, no child has missed school since they started serving meals. The teachers are also reporting an improvement in students’ participation in class and physical activities.


“In this village a significant number of households’ income is often no more than USD 63. Many children eat small portions of plain rice as their main meal for the day. If lucky, this may include an egg. Here at school the children are receiving milk, rice, vegetables, and other nutritious side dishes helping to improve their diet, health, and performance in school and during sport,” he says.


The project is not only feeding children in schools but also creating jobs and economically empowering local farmers who are selling their produce to schools.


In the surrounding communities, Mr. Shalahudin says the project is supporting local smallholder farmers supplying rice, vegetables, milk, meat, and eggs to this new market. “School meals have created a good market for the farmers because they can make bulky supplies to this school and others also benefitting from the project. This is making it easy to quickly distribute perishable commodities such as milk and vegetables that sometimes used to go to waste due to a lack of reliable markets.”


He further explains that food transporters ferrying supplies to schools were also experiencing a boom in business due to an increase in demand for their services while the 15 targeted schools in the district have employed local women as school meal managers, cooks, and dishwashers.


About the School Meal and Milk Pilot Project

Indonesia Food Security Review is a School Meals Coalition partner specialising in food security and school meal programmes, while the Prabowo Subianto Foundation is renowned for its significant role in various social and humanitarian activities. Both organisations collaborate with the National Food Agency of Indonesia and the Government of Indonesia to support the formulation of technical instructions and best practice guidelines for implementation of Free Nutritious School Meal Programmes. This pilot project offers daily free meals and balanced nutrition to elementary, junior high, and high school students. Through this pilot, the Indonesia Food Security Review and Prabowo Subianto’s Foundation are assessing the feasibility of this model and gathering lessons learned to establish best practices to be shared for the nationwide implementation of school meals in Indonesia.