Making Meager Meals Momentous

School Lunch

Mangeni* is thrilled to be at Calvary Primary today. Because she has the chance to obtain a higher education, she has a chance to bring herself and her family out of poverty. She has the chance to make her country a better place. As she sits in mathematics class, she tries hard to focus. There was no dinner at home last night.

The school provided a small porridge breakfast – but her stomach is already protesting for more. She attempts to ignore her churning belly. She is extremely exhausted – her limited diet has not given her the nutrients she needs.

“Mangeni, what is the answer to number 4?” Mangeni’s teacher gestures at the multiplication problem on the board. She tries to remember what her teacher taught her yesterday, but her foggy mind and her cavernous stomach overtake her.

“I do not know,” she replies to her teacher. Mangeni sits back in her chair with a sigh. A wave of hopelessness splashes over her. How can she become a leader of tomorrow if she cannot get the nutrition she needs today?

It is important for the children to eat these nutrients in a balanced fashion in order for them to grow, think, and avoid malnutrition. Calvary Primary attempts to meet these needs, but currently comes short. The typical daily diet for a child at Calvary Primary is as follows:

  • Breakfast (at school): A cup of porridge (thin corn meal with water- sometimes sugar and/or milk added) and sometimes cassava (a root) or popcorn.
  • Lunch (at school): A cup of posho (a thick corn meal) and a cup of red beans.
  • Dinner (at home): Dinner is only available to children at home about 3-4 days per week. If dinner does happen, it may be just beans or tea.

Many children here are malnourished. In the midst of poverty, Calvary Primary (part of the Bridges for Children program)  gives education, but also strives to meet the children’s basic need for nutrition.

Calories Make a Difference
The average child at the school needs about 1800 calories daily (this varies by age, sex, height, and weight). Calories come from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. A child needs about 68 grams of protein (272 cal), 60 grams of fat (540 cal), and 247 grams of carbohydrate (988 calories) each day.

The current daily intake (without occasional dinner included) is about 835 calories, 179 g carbohydrate, 18 g protein, and 2 g of fat. All of these nutrients are at a deficient level. Calories Carbohydrate (grams) Protein (grams) Fat (grams) Estimated Daily Needs 1800 247 68 60 Current Daily Intake 835 179 18 2 Current Daily Deficit -965 -68 -50 -58 The children of Calvary Primary are deficient in calories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Also, due to the lack of sufficient portions and variety in their diet, they are missing significant amounts of several important vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and vitamin A. Without these essential nutrients a few of the problems the children may have include: severe fatigue, difficulty concentrating, poor growth, loss of muscle tissue or “muscle wasting,” inability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals, severely dry skin and hair, eye problems/blindness, and decreased immunity to disease.

What’s Next?
Calvary Primary wants to change these children’s nutritional fate by increasing the portions they offer at school during breakfast and lunch and by increasing the variety of food they offer at meals. But the school is unable to improve the children’s nutrition on their own.


The Cost of Nutrition
The typical current diet is provided to the children with the current food budget of 25 cents per day per child ($18,750 per year to feed 300 children, 250 days of the year). Also, food costs continue to rise in Uganda. In order to meet the nutritional needs of the children, a food budget of $1.00 per day per child is required. That is an increase to $75,000 per year to feed 300 children twice a day, 250 days of the year. Calvary Primary needs additional yearly total donations of $56,250 in order to provide the children with the nutrition they need to live and to succeed at school and in life.

Buying Local
It is very important that the school is able to purchase food for the school at the local markets. They sometimes receive donations of fortified rice that is very nutritious, and of course they are very grateful for this generous gift. However, bringing in food from locations outside Uganda is very expensive to ship to Uganda and takes away from the local economy. By purchasing food locally, the school is giving back to the economy (and the cost is about the same). This can improve the children’s parent’s work situation and create more economical growth. Then this can lead to more food on the table at dinner and on the 112 days of the year the children are not at school.

You can transform school meals from meager to momentous. Please care for the children of Uganda with your support of Calvary Primary as not only a place of learning, but also as a place where children are given the nutrition to grow in stature and in mind into the people God has called them to be.

Guest post by Leah Beiermann, RD

*Mangeni represents any of the children attending Calvary Primary through the Bridges for Children program.

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