Most people have somewhat underwhelming memories of school lunches.

Bland, uninteresting food which likely compelled you to go off at break time to the local shop and eat sugary doughnuts, a chocolate bar and a bag crisps. Or chips, for our American listeners.

This dynamic is somewhat similar in the Ruira county of Kenya, just outside the capital Nairobi.

The difference though, is that the option of meals at school is non-existant.

That is until Wawira Njiru started Food 4 Education, an organisation that provides nutritious and affordable meals to 1,600 school kids every day.

She and I cover all parts of the operation including setting up relationships with schools,the economies of scale in their food production and how the school meal programme is funded by their for profit catering business, as well as (indirectly) from the Lonely Planet travel guide company.

This episode is a great example of a organisation stepping in to fill a market need, with the help of other interested parties.

Wawira and I talk about how she feels there is not a wholly sustainable business model in just providing affordable lunches in rural schools, but I think you’ll agree after listening that undertaking creative ways to make it sustainable, including lessons from India, is a good thing for the world.

In market economies, entrepreneurs are typically drawn to businesses that will yield the greatest profit.

If two options involve the same input of time and resource, traditional economics would suggest that the one that is most likely to give high returns is favourable.

Of course though, many entrepreneurs have other motives at play, and Wawira Njiru is one such person – pursuing the business of delivering affordable nutritious meals to low-income Kenyan school kids.

The facts around the importance of good nutrition are compelling on both an academic and anecdotal level.

Many studies point to the positive correlation of nutritious food and school attendance, and you also instinctively that if you don’t have a midday meal – your concentration wanes in the afternoon.

This episode is all about how Food 4 Education is bridging that gap, by taking a “for profit” mentality to tackling a societal problem where, under normal conditions, the market wouldn’t solve it.

We discuss the intricasies of their model, as well as plans to scale in line with a Public Private Partnership in India that serves 1,600,000 school meals each day.

Wawira’s recommendation to policymakers is that, because Indian law mandates Corporate Social Responsibility, programmes such as providing nutritious school meals have much more support, and can a greater impact.

It is, for me at least, a great example of co-ordinating multiple parties with similar needs to solve an issue that would otherwise be overlooked.

Lessons and Insights

Biggest insight: schoolkids don’t need shiny laptops, they need wholesome hot meals.

Biggest surprise: I need to be thinking waaaay bigger with what this can achieve.

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