Project overview

PLUS School Menus software is the first digital solution that optimizes school meals by making them simultaneously more nutritious, cost-efficient and locally-sourced.

The problem

Approximately 73 million primary school children in 60 low-income countries go to school hungry every day. While those children may already be receiving at least one school meal, it may not always be one that meets their specific nutritional need.

The increasing obesity epidemic and rapidly changing global diets makes the need to influence dietary quality through school feeding even more urgent. Innovative solutions are needed to support the scale up of School Feeding programmes and ensure that all vulnerable children have access to nutritious, cost-efficient, school meals.

Students in Bhutan
The solution

With PLUS, decision makers have now a user-friendly online tool which supports the design of nutritious, locally sourced and cost-efficient school meals.

PLUS uses a set of databases (food prices and food composition tables) and, through an advanced mathematical algorithm, calculates a "menu" of meals, ensuring  nutritional requirements using locally-sourced food and seasonal ingredients.

The software underwent a thorough Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach to create its interface. This process enables an extremely user-friendly flow so that anyone, with little or no training, can create school feeding menus in a matter of minutes.

Designing menus together

Healthy and well-nourished school children learn better. Ensuring that girls and boys stay in school and are healthy and ready to learn allows them to fully achieve their potential as adults. Very simply: sick or undernourished children cannot attend school and hungry children cannot learn. 

School Feeding programmes can help get children into school and help them stay there. They provide children with safe and nutritious food, encouraging dietary diversity and healthy eating habits. When purchased locally from smallholder farmers ("Home Grown School Feeding"), programmes maximize benefits for students and local communities, by integrating smallholder farmers into food supply chains and generating profit for local economies.

An initial pilot allowed WFP to validate two big benefits of the tool. First, the tool is able to largely improve and adapt food baskets for school feeding programmes. This includes substantial cost savings without reducing quality and the flexibility to adapt to local challenges and eating habits. Second, the task of creating menus becomes much easier with PLUS School Menus.

PLUS software was able to calculate new food baskets, bringing large improvements in a very short period of time. The first ever PLUS-designed menu was implemented in the region of Punakha: it had the same nutrient content as the previous school menu, but was 20 percent cheaper and, simultaneously, increased by 70 percent the amount of food bought from smallholderfarmers, all while respecting local eating habits and culture. The only training the first two users required (a WFP programme officer and a government nutritionist) was a two-hour in-person session and a few remote follow-up calls.

WFP Country Offices implementing Plus

 

Where we go from here and what we still need

In 2020, the PLUS software will go through a thorough enhancement. Partnerships with key development actors will be strengthened and several countries will begin field implementation in a continuous feedback and improvement process. From 2021 onwards, global expansion will start in close collaboration with Governments and partners.

The potential of PLUS is already recognized within the humanitarian and development community: the project received a WFP Innovation Challenge award in 2018 and was selected for the Global Best Practices Award at the World Expo Dubai 2020 in the category “Water, Food and Energy Security". That being said, further investment, partnerships, and expertise are always welcome.

Meet the team

Raul Saenz de Inestrillas
Project Lead, School Based Programmes
Salvatore Avanzo
Salvatore Avanzo
Information Technology Division (TEC) Lead
Claudia Del Mastro
Claudia Del Mastro
Technical Board Member, Smallholder and Food Systems Support
Valerio Giuffrida
Valerio Giuffrida
Data Expert Economic and Market Analysis Unit
Geraldine Honton
Geraldine Honton
Technical Board Member, Nutrition Division
Domitille Kauffmann
Domitille Kauffmann
Technical Board Member, School Based Programmes
Leila Masson
Leila Masson
Field Tester, Madagascar Country Office
Pierre Momcilovic
Pierre Momcilovic
Technical Board Member, Nutrition Division
Sarah Piccini
Sarah Piccini
Technical Board Member, Nutrition Division
Udaya Sharma
Udaya Sharma
Field Tester, Bhutan Country Office
Akanksha Raju
UX/UI Designer, School-Based Programmes
Last updated: 09/07/2020