01 May 2020

Children standing in front of the Food4Education outlet, Kenya
The founder of Food4Education – which provides healthy, nutritious food to Kenya’s children – reacted quickly to the growing COVID-19 threat and enforced a three-pronged virus response, including a central foodbank that will provide food items to 6,000 poor homes while in lockdown.

Wawira Njiru

Founder and Executive Director, Food 4 Education, Kenya
2018 UniSA Alumni Award Winner
Bachelor Nutrition & Food Sciences

Wawira Njiru started Food 4 Education feeding 25 children with little money while still at university. Now the organisation has grown beyond her wildest dreams having delivered more than one million meals to Kenya’s most vulnerable children.

Even today, she’s still just as driven and admirably ambitious.

At the beginning of this year, the Food for Education founder and her dedicated team, made a commitment to feed 100,000 Kenyan children by the end of 2020. And while these past few months have already seen unprecedented events and subsequent disruption, it’s a goal they’re still committed to – albeit with a couple of detours along the way.

Wawira’s brainchild, Food for Education, provides regular nutritious subsidised lunches to over 10,000 school-going children in public primary schools in Kenya, brilliantly leveraging the technology platform Tap2Eat to provide these meals.

However, when news of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Wawira and her team acted quickly and swiftly employed a three-part response to counteract the effects the Kenyan community – already vulnerable – would be feeling.

“We are currently following the Government’s directives to stay and work from home as much as possible and observe social distancing as well as maintaining the highest standards of sanitation,” she explains.

“But we wanted to make sure our children and community are taken care of as we continue to navigate this new reality.”

“A lot of families have been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 and we are trying to build safety nets such as food banks to shelter them.”

“Most of the children we work with come from vulnerable families where parents are casual labourers relying on daily wages.”

When we talked to Wawira, schools in Kenya had been closed for about four weeks and Food for Education had to unfortunately shutdown all operations in their central kitchen. Therefore, they had to act fast.

“With the economic impact of this pandemic felt across the country and globe, our children and their families remain at grave risk of hunger and malnutrition.”

Food for Education in the midst of feeding hungry children at lunchtime
Food for Education in the midst of feeding hungry children at lunchtime

“This is why we decided to set up a food bank for our 6000 families, that will help cushion them during this period and ensure our children still have access to nutritious food.”

“Each family will receive a dry food basket that includes rice, beans, maize and maize flour, sufficient to feed a family for 6 weeks, in the event that an ongoing lockdown disrupts their access to food staples.”

“We are also caring for our staff by providing full wages in this crisis and health subsidies to those who are in need. We are also increasing our school lunch subsidy for the rest of the year to cushion parents once schools resume.”

With such a rapid, compassionate and thoughtful response, it’s no wonder Wawira was voted the 2019 Most Influential Young Kenyan in Social Enterprise & Philanthropy by Avance Media, Africa's Leading Rating, Media and Public Relations Agency.

The proof also further lies in the millions of meals delivered to children that have continued to thrive as a result, leading to improved nutrition, school attendance, performance and higher high school transition rates in Kenya.

‘Sundays locked in Nairobi’: Wawira from her Twitter Account
‘Sundays locked in Nairobi’: Wawira from her Twitter Account

And how is Wawira faring personally during this time?

“We are doing great, all things considered, just trying to stay positive and hopeful that all this will be over soon.”

“At the beginning of 2020, our goal was to feed 100,000 children by the end of the year, a goal we are still committed to. Our second central kitchen is also currently under construction and that will allow us to feed more children.

“We can only hope for an end to this pandemic so we can go back to doing what we love to do and that’s feeding the future.”

To support Food for Education’s vital work, please visit their website: www.food4education.org.

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