Beyond the School Grounds: School Feeding and Community Resilience in Burundi

Lora BollField, Leland

Above: Field of amaranth at a school in Makamba Province, Burundi. All photos in this blog courtesy Lora Boll, 12th Class Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellow placed with World Vision in Burundi.

Map of Burundi indicating location of Makamba (far south) and Muyinga (far northeast) provinces.


A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I crouched in a field of eggplants and tomatoes, admiring a school garden’s thriving greenery tangled under the glaring sun. Nearby, a motley construction crew, including a government official in rubber boots, leaned on their shovels to rest from laying bricks for the new refectory. In the background, parents stirred pots of boiling vegetables, maize, and beans balanced over charcoal fires, and preschoolers sat cross-legged on striped mats, scooping fresh maize bread and boiled vegetables into their mouths.

This school, located in Burundi’s Makamba Province, comprises one of the newest participants in World Vision’s school meals program. School feeding as a critical intervention for child wellbeing is gaining visibility worldwide, with numerous governments and international organizations prioritizing investments in this area. Working on the Food Assistance team at World Vision Burundi for the first year of my Leland Fellowship, I’ve enjoyed a front row seat to the impact of school meals in rural Burundi. School feeding supports children’s nutrition and education in wide-ranging settings across the globe. World Vision’s programs in Burundi, however, demonstrate that the impact of school feeding can extend beyond the school grounds to promote environmental sustainability, agricultural production, and community resilience.



Above, left: freshly prepared maize bread for the mid-day meal; right: eggplant growing in a school garden.


In Burundi, food insecurity and malnutrition present significant challenges for children’s growth and development. 90% of the country’s population earns a living from agriculture,1 and 18% of households consume only one meal per day2. Farmers contend with a host of challenges while attempting to earn a living and produce food through agriculture including fuel shortages, the inflating cost of inputs, limited access to arable land, and recurring natural disasters. Heavy rains regularly wash topsoil, seeds, and sprouting plants from cultivated hillsides, and overuse of farmland during the three annual growing seasons degrades the soil, decreasing yields.

With high rates of poverty, widespread dependence on smallholder farming, and frequent climate shocks, food insecurity rates in Burundi are almost twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa2. In 2023, chronic malnutrition and stunting impacted 55.8% of children under 5 years of age3, introducing serious risks for physical and cognitive development, school performance, and later economic participation4. For many children in Burundi, obtaining a quality education also presents a challenge. Almost 40% of school-aged children currently remain out of school due to dropouts or failure to enroll and as a result miss out on the benefits of education3.



Above, left: A school garden featuring amaranth and corn; right: newly planted saplings shielded by palm fronds.


School meals offer a means for simultaneously improving students’ nutrition, supporting school attendance and learning, and strengthening the resilience of local food systems. Burundi is taking bold strides towards implementing school meals across the country with the World Food Program (WFP) as the principal donor and World Vision as an implementing partner. Over 660,000 children currently benefit from school meals in Burundi, and the government doubled funding for school feeding in 2023 with the aim of reaching 2.8 million children by 20325.

World Vision works with parents, teachers, school administrators, and government officials to offer a hot meal to around 150,000 children every day at 159 schools in Muyinga and Makamba Provinces. Alongside these meals, World Vision provides capacity building, agricultural inputs, and technical support to farmer cooperatives in Muyinga as part of the Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) model with the goal of increasing yields to support household food security while also generating excess produce for school canteens. Currently, 24 schools receive food items exclusively from farmer cooperatives, meaning 11,453 children enjoy school meals grown in their own backyards. This model supports families manifold by providing stable income to farming parents, investing in the local economy and food system, and improving children’s nutritional intake.



Above, left: school meal preparation; right: inside a farmer cooperative warehouse.


A few months ago, I joined a visit to one of the farmer cooperatives engaged with school feeding in Muyinga. Standing in the shade outside the cooperative’s cinderblock warehouse, a representative shared that with WFP as a guaranteed client and the certainty that produce brought to the cooperative will feed their own children, farmers are more likely to participate in the organization and invest in intensifying agricultural yields. In the one and a half years since this cooperative began partnering with WFP to supply school canteens, the farmer organization quadrupled its revenue, bringing stable income and economic growth to the wider community.

World Vision also works with parents, school personnel, and local authorities to launch other community-led initiatives, including environment clubs and school gardens, in conjunction with school meals. I visited a school in Makamba, where parents purchased a piglet to provide organic fertilizer for the school garden. The piglet, fed with leftovers from school meals to reduce food waste, snuffled behind an enclosure of bamboo slats in the corner of the schoolyard. Two directors shared that the students involved in environment clubs at their schools cumulatively planted 6,500 trees in the surrounding areas to address changing climate conditions. Students and teachers across the program also maintain multiple acres of amaranth, beans, eggplant, and tomatoes to contribute to the mid-day meal or sell to fund other projects. Tucked into the spaces between buildings or scattered in brick-lined beds across the schoolyards, onions and carrots poke from red soil, and beans twirl and droop from corn stalks in the fields beyond the classrooms.

School feeding programs provide an opportunity to not only enhance the nutrition and education of school children but also to bolster agricultural production, counteract climate shocks, fuel local economies, and strengthen food systems—supporting the entire ecosystem with schools at the center. Across the world, daily school meals enhance child nutrition and encourage children to enroll in and attend school. While working in Burundi, however, I’ve learned that the value of school feeding can extend much farther, providing a pathway to community resilience beyond the school grounds.

Above: Post-meal clean-up at a school in Makamba Province.



  1. Ndikumana, A. (2015). Gender Equality in Burundi: Why Does Support Not Extend to Women’s Right to Inherit Land? (pp. 1-9). Bujumbura, Burundi: Afrobarometer. []
  2. Lokuruka, M. N. (2020). Food and nutrition security in east Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania): Status, challenges and prospects. Food security in Africa. [] []
  3. UNICEF (2023). Situation des enfants au Burundi. [] []
  4. USAID (2018). Burundi: Nutrition Profile. []
  5. []

About the Authors

Lora Boll holds an M.A. in Social Work, Policy, and Administration from the University of Chicago, focusing on child wellbeing, social policy formulation, and trauma-responsive care. She has served as a program administrator, social worker, youth mentor, and volunteer with organizations in the U.S., India, and Honduras, including Family Focus, UChicago College Readiness and Access, Changing Worlds, Healthy Niños Honduras, and Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA). Her work in youth development, education, and early childhood interventions highlighted for her the critical impact of food insecurity on children’s health and development. She comes to the Leland Fellowship convinced that promoting child wellbeing and ensuring equitable outcomes for children experiencing poverty begins with addressing food insecurity. A resident of Pennsylvania, Lora also holds a B.M. in Music and a Certificate in Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) from Wheaton College.

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