School Meals Project Final Products

Published by Emile Creel on

School Meals Project Final Products

Gina Rico Mendez, SSRC assistant research professor, and team recently completed the “Research and Learning of the McGovern-Dole School Meals Program in Africa” project. This research effort was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Funded by the U.S. Government through the USDA-FAS, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program provides support for education and child nutrition in low-income, food-deficit countries, through the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities, and financial and technical assistance.

This interdisciplinary, and cross campus research collaboration was led by Principal Investigator Rico Mendez, Dan Petrolia (co-principal investigator), a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Will Davis (co-principal investigator), an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Terezie Tolar-Peterson (co-principal investigator), an associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion. Other MSU faculty participants include Sheena Gardner and Mary Read-Wahidi from the SSRC. In May, the team traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their finding at the USDA headquarters. A follow-up online presentation took place in June. This research dissemination effort included participants from USDA-FAS, USAID and McGovern Dole program implementing partners, located in different areas of the United States and abroad.

Using data from implementation of the McGovern-Dole program in six countries in Africa, supplemented with stakeholder interviews, the project investigated three research questions in the areas of partnerships, economics of school meals, and nutritional analysis.

  1. Rico Mendez led the team that conducted research on partnerships for school feeding in Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Tanzania; this team evaluated the structures, challenges, and successes of partnerships and their capacity to support transition to nationally owned school feeding programs.
  2. Petrolia and Davis led the economic analysis of the local and regional component aspect of the McGovern-Dole program in Burkina Faso, Kenya and Rwanda. Their analysis suggests that building capacity among local smallholder farmers is critical to sustain nationally owned school feeding programs.
  3. Tolar-Peterson’s team conducted research on the nutritional components of the school meals in Senegal and Tanzania to evaluate their capacity to provide adequate nutrition for cognitive development, normal growth and development, and improving educational outcomes.

“The teamwork on this project, plus the support from our program officer at USDA, the different academic and research units at MSU, including the SSRC and MAFES, were fundamental to bring together our findings, and later to ensure dissemination,” said Rico Mendez.

The project’s final report presented the findings of what the teams learned after analyzing programmatic monitoring and evaluation data, interviews, policies, and other documents from each country’s program.

“We hope this will help inform the future of school feeding programs and be a resource for others researching these areas,” said Rico Mendez.

To watch the final presentation, visit

To read the final report, visit

Read the executive summary at

—-Disclaimer Statement—-

These products were prepared by researchers from Mississippi State University in their research capacity. The opinions expressed are the authors’ own and do not reflect the view of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), or the United States government.

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